• Sat, Feb 27 2010

Amazing Reads: The Bag Lady Papers

There’s an organization I recently became aware of, Women in Need, that provides NYC homeless women and their families with support, shelter, and a community of assistance. I became aware of them through a few amazing women I call friends, Karen Robinovitz and Jeannine Morris, both who do a great deal of work on the organization’s behalf.

The Bag Lady Papers

I’ve gone to several of their events, and last week, I went to one that was a little different. They held a book reading/seminar “Conversations with Tina Brown and Alexandra Penney,” moderated by Tina Brown ( Editor In Chief of The Daily Beast) and Alexandra Penney, author of The Bag Lady Papers.

While book conversations on eBeautyDaily are usually limited to, well, beauty books, The Bag Lady Papers is about a beauty that is far more than skin deep.

We all have secret fears. Throughout her life, Alexandra Penney’s worst fear was of becoming a bag lady. And so she was constantly working to make sure that did not happen. Even as she worked several jobs while raising a son as a single mother, wrote a bestselling advice book, and became editor in chief of Self magazine, she was haunted by the image of herself alone, bankrupt, and living on the street. She even went to therapy in an attempt to alleviate the worry that all she had worked for could crumble. And then, one day, that’s exactly what happened. Penney had taken a friend’s advice and invested nearly everything she had ever earned-all of her savings-with Bernie Madoff. One day she was successful and wealthy; the next she had almost nothing. Suddenly, at an age when many Americans retire, Penney saw her worst nightmares coming true. Based on her popular blog posts on the Daily Beast, this memoir chronicles Penney’s struggle to cope with the devastating financial and emotional fallout of being cheated out of her life savings and illuminates her journey back to sanity, solvency, and security.

An excerpt, in the author’s own words:

“I will work harder than I ever have before–which was pretty hard indeed–and see what happens. I have the feeling something good will come of it: tough, challenging work and laserlike focus have always paid off for me. . . . Was it better to have it and then lose it? Yes, yes, yes! Even though I lived with horrible bag lady fears of losing it all, now that those financial fears have materialized, I’m in pretty good shape and looking to what’s next. Experiences-good and bad, exciting and boring, tragic and absurd-make up a life. Not to have lived To The fullest is the saddest, most irresponsible life I can think of.”

At a time when all of us are living our fears of loss, and regret, I think this book is nothing short of inspirational. I’ve read the book cover to cover since seeing Penney speak, and all of you should rush out and give it a read too. Suddenly, your problems may not seem so bad. Or, they may seem just a little bit more beatable.

I never cease to be amazed by the people I come in contact with.

Share This Post:
  • Rosie

    I’ve been looking for something fun to read. Thanks for the review, I’ll have to check this book out.

  • sascha_love

    I’m a voracious reader, and I will be picking this one up soon. It’ frightening to know that something you fear most and work so hard to avoid can strike in an instant. For me, it’s getting an illness similar to the one my mother died of.

  • Christine

    Thanks for the book suggestion. Making a living today is a challenge and sometimes unfortunately a devastating event mentioned here can happen and turn your world upside down. Sounds like this book may inspire some.