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True North: A Memoir

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  850 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
Conway's The Road from Coorain presents a vivid memoir of coming of age in Australia. In 1960, however, she had reached the limits of that provincial--and irredeemably sexist--society and set off for America. True North--the testament of an extraordinary woman living in an extraordinary time--te lls the profound story of the challenges that confronted Conway, as she sought ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 15th 1995 by Vintage (first published August 9th 1994)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,335)
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Jan 03, 2011 Rick rated it really liked it
I gave this book 4 stars because I really like memoirs and loved The Road from Coorain, Conway's earlier memoir of her childhood. A more objective reviewer could very justifiably give this memoir, which covers the time from graduate school through her acceptance of the Presidency of Smith College at age 40, 3 stars. As many of the Goodreads reviews have noted, this book bogs down at times, going into excessive detail on small points and occasionally slipping into a detached academic tone.

But ev
Jordan Kinsey
A couple thoughts I found intriguing: "The departmental organization of university faculties means that every department faculty, dominated by the research ideal, strives to teach ever-more specialized courses in its chosen discipline, seeking to convert its students to aspire to graduate study in the field in question. This objective is in direct conflict with the undergraduate's need to sop up general knowledge like blotting paper, to try out new ideas, to test the limits of the individual ima ...more
Taylor Kate Brown
Jun 21, 2010 Taylor Kate Brown rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Jill Ker Conway is a fascinating and driven person, but this memoir is like listening to an insufferable friend tell you every detail of a story that's not particularly interesting, then suddenly have a fascinating tale, then back to the pedantry again.

At least I'm interested in her first memoir.
At first I was disappointed that this book didn't take place in Australia. Ms. Conway's first memoir, The Road from Coorain, is one of the truly classic, essentials of Australian literature and takes us from Jill's childhood growing up on a station (ranch) in the bush (outback), to her move to Sydney and her struggles in the 1950s to get the education she so desperately craves. I knew this book started with her heading to Boston for graduate school, but I didn't realize she's only return to Aust ...more
Jun 20, 2013 Janice added it
In this second volume of Conway's memoirs, she defies the provincial attitudes of her native Australia and her controlling mother's objections and enters graduate school in history at Harvard. This takes place in the pre-feminist late 50s (think Mad Men, season 1), and it's remarkable to me that Conway had not just the determination but the scope of mind to pursue a scholarly life; coming from where and when she did, going to Harvard required an imaginative leap. I particularly enjoyed the first ...more
Aug 17, 2009 Consuela rated it really liked it
This is the sequel to Road to Coorain and continues with the life story of Jill Ker Conway after she leaves her native Australia to head to Harvard for graduate studies in History. She is a scholar and it's really a joy to read about her love of learning and research. This book takes her through falling in love with another scholar 18 years older than she is, their marriage, move to his native Canada, to becoming the first woman president of Smith College. What I'm impressed with is her continua ...more
Feb 21, 2009 Maija rated it liked it
Read it for my book club at work - I liked this, but I think it may have helped to have read her previous book first. I also was bummed it didn't cover her years at Smith (the book ends as she is to become president of Smith College - the first woman president, I believe, of all-women college). plus, I love Western Massachusetts and would have liked to read about it. Her style is somewhat removed - she is clearly an academic, not very emotional. I enjoyed most the parts about her experiences suc ...more
Aug 08, 2014 Jocelyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: leadership
Jill Ker Conway sketches the beginning of a woman's academic career in the 60s and early 70s, from graduate work at Harvard to assuming the presidency of Smith College. Here is a strong, Type-A personality--tested in the crucible of a farm in the Australian outback and the struggle to break free of a controlling mother, and so ready to tackle gender discrimination and to campaign for women's education. Her natural ability and training as a historian enable her to view the places she lives and th ...more
Paula Dembeck
Jul 29, 2013 Paula Dembeck rated it it was amazing
This continues the memoir started in her previous book: The Road to Coorain.
It picks up the story as she leaves Australia for Harvard where she enters a small community of women scholars. She has a love affair with a Canadian War hero John Conway, twenty years her senior and also a manic depressive. It continues until she is ready to leave her last post at the University of Toronto to become the first woman president of Smith’s College.
Candid, easy reading, well written.
Dec 12, 2014 Joyce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
Borrowed from public library. Adult memoir.
I must have read the Road from Coorain. This follows that. She's such a good writer.
Australian born, educated at Harvard, married a Harvard prof, taught at U. of Toronto (1964-1975), President of Smith College (1975-1985) in Northhampton, Mass.
Writes about discrimination against women in Australia, feminism, education, homeland, family, history -- all objectively -- and life. Quite a learning experience!
Dec 15, 2014 Terry rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
A continuation of Conway's intellectual and professional journey as she begins graduate school at Harvard. She finds both her professional speciality - the history of women and their struggle for equality - and her future husband John. She adopts Canada as her home and grows professionally at the University of Toronto before accepting the presidency of Smith College.
Jun 02, 2015 Mary rated it really liked it
"The Road From Coorain" is haunting in its exploration of landscape and family, and a young girl's struggle to find herself. In "True North", Jill leaves Australia for the U.S., working in Cambridge and in Toronto as an historian. In Boston, she meets her husband-to-be, John Conway.

This book focuses on Jill Ker Conway's twenties, thirties, and forties. She becomes a professor, then an administrator. As a teacher, she focuses on history as a vital force in human life, paying special attention to
There was material I skipped over in this book because it listed people Jill worked with whom I had never heard of and whom she did not mention again in the book; and I have to say her first memoir was far more interesting; but still, this author is such a fascinating person. Her life was so full and so busy that she does amaze me. She also seems to be wise and patient, tolerating and being motivated by situations most human beings would run from. Of course, she is writing about these marvelous ...more
Jean Poulos
Sep 25, 2013 Jean Poulos rated it it was amazing
Shelves: menoir, e-book
I had listened to “The Road From Coorain” on audio-book but unfortunately “True North” was not available in that format so I obtain it as an e-book and read it via my Kindle app on my Ipad. So glad I did as it was so easy to just tap a word and obtain the definition. I love a book that challenges my vocabulary as this one did. “True North” is the second book in Conway’s trilogy memoir. I was introduced to this series by a Professor friend of mine who is also from Australia and knows Ker Conway p ...more
May 14, 2015 Kirsten rated it really liked it
This was fun reading - it's not just a straight memoir, because she mixes in bits of stuff that interests her: about her dissertation (on Jane Addams and women reformers), about social mores of the 60s, and about colonial attitudes in Australia (which she later compares to those in Canada). The last part of the book does get bogged down a bit in university politics (she becomes an administrator at a Canadian university), and I skimmed that part a bit. Great narrative voice.
May 28, 2013 Jack rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

The "oh gee, I did everything by the book, and it all turned out great" got old into the second decade. At least she admitted, albeit one sentence, about how completely foreign the lives of, basically people that have to do real things, are to her. My gut tells me that wife-ing up with a tenured Harvard professor did more for this Australian graduate student of history than she conveys, beyond the chapter about the year spent honeymooning in Europe.

Having formed the same conclusion, I found her
Jun 11, 2014 Kate rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Memoir of an Australian Fulbright scholar, academic, feminist, historian in the sixties in US and Canada. I have not read the book about the early years (still waiting for it to come from my library system) but there are hints of a horrible mother in this one - but by this time the author is breaking free. Good commentary on feminist struggles of the sixties in US and Canada, and on finding oneʻs direction and true north, after migration.
Mar 19, 2014 Lisa rated it really liked it
Jill Kerr Conway reveals herself as a formidable woman taking on Herculean tasks and completely devoted to her work. Ms. Conway boasts an impressive resume. But what is most satisfying to read is the self doubts she had about her career, the ambivalence about her ties to her home country and family there. The writing sometimes feels a bit too factual, a bit stiff, but her story is inspiring to women.
Clayton Brannon
Nov 20, 2014 Clayton Brannon rated it it was amazing
A continuation of Jill Ker Conway's life is much more than a story of her life up to the time she becomes the President of Smith College. The historian in her comes out in this book. She delves into a lot of the history of women in society and their roles in higher education. This books along with The Road from Coorain should be on every person must read list.
Aug 17, 2014 Therese rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: interests in women's studies, higher education
Recommended to Therese by: book club selection

True North is the second in a trilogy of the memoir of Jill Ker Conway, an Australian woman born in 1934 with a keen desire for higher education. This book begins when she starts her graduate work at Harvard, meets her husband, and tells about her scholastic and academic career.

This book was easy enough to read (style wise) although I don't understand a lot of the higher educational system, and with the chance to travel as much as she did, I don't know how that was possible financially, etc
Candelaria Silva
Jan 25, 2016 Candelaria Silva rated it it was amazing
I read this one and the sequel - haven't read the third. I enjoy reading about other people's lives and coming of age journeys. Very well-written book. Despite living in Boston, I haven't gotten to hear Ms. Conway read as of yet.
Aug 07, 2015 Brideshead rated it it was amazing
Es una autobiografía muy sugerente. La excelente escritura de Conway recrea con gran viveza el ambiente intelectual de Harvard, la belleza de Roma o París o la vida universitaria en Toronto. Su preocupación y compromiso por la educación de la mujer proporciona interesantes reflexiones sobre el papel de la mujer en la sociedad y los medios para luchar contra el sexismo. Y por encima de todo el libro es una historia donde el amor es la fuerza que arrastra al compromiso.
Sep 12, 2015 Mckinley rated it it was ok
Focus on her academic life after she comes to the United States. While interesting in accounting for female scholarship during this time, the book is dry and lacking the personal interest of her Road to Coorain book.
Dec 17, 2014 Esther rated it liked it
Enjoyed the vocabulary and writing style. Intellectual feminist in the 60's.
Aug 04, 2009 Linda rated it liked it
This book starts where "The Road from Coorain" leaves off, as Jill is on the plane coming to the States to study for an advanced history degree at Harvard. It follows her through graduate work, her marriage, her years as a professor in Toronto, and ends with her appointment as President of Smith College. Much to chew on here, about women's rights, education, the teaching of history, etc., all told with gentleness and humor, and showing the love and affection for her husband that kept their marri ...more
Susan Norton
Aug 29, 2015 Susan Norton rated it it was amazing
a continuation of a fascinating woman's story
Jan 12, 2015 Amanda rated it it was amazing
!One of the best memoirs I've ever read!
Apr 06, 2016 Dorothy rated it it was amazing
Dedication: For John

Description:Conway's The Road from Coorain presents a vivid memoir of coming of age in Australia. In 1960, however, she had reached the limits of that provincial--and irredeemably sexist--society and set off for America. True North--the testament of an extraordinary woman living in an extraordinary time--te lls the profound story of the challenges that confronted Conway, as she sought to establish her public self.

Opening: Within hours of my arrival in September 1960, New York
Jul 18, 2007 Kristen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: women
Jill Kerr Conway was an academic from Australia (I think, I haven't read the early-life memoir) and she went to Radcliffe, met her husband, and eventually became the first female president of Smith College. She is a great writer, very intelligent, and led a fascinating life. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading her other memoirs (Road to Coorain and a Women's Education).
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Jill Ker Conway, AC (born 9 October 1934) is an Australian-American author. Well known for her autobiographies, in particular her first memoir, The Road from Coorain. She was also Smith College's first woman president, from 1975–1985, and now serves as a Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2004 she was designated a Women's History Month Honoree by the National Women ...more
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