Genre

Memoir / Autobiography

Audience

Adult

Author’s Worldview

Catholic

Year Published

2020

Themes

leadership, womanhood, womanly virtues, singlehood, single life, single vocation, black history, black experience, healthcare workers, healthcare, St. Vincent DePaul Society, Cursillo Movement

 

Reviewed by

A.R.K. Watson

Too often books on leadership neglect the real source of strong charisma: holiness. Looking back over the 85 years of her life, Dr. Price draws practical examples for how we can grow in humility even as we rise through the ranks of our chosen careers. Dr. Price grew up in a small Caribbean village before segregation was outlawed. Her rise to a position of global leadership is an inspiration to all.

My Life’s Journey is the autobiography of Dr. Margaret P. Price, a black woman from the Caribbean Island of Tobago. Born in the early years of the 20th century and growing up during WWII, she traveled abroad for her education and worked her way up to lead international health programs for governments and the United Nations across five continents, as well as to have an extensive family of adopted and fostered godchildren. It is remarkable to read a story from a woman of her generation who mixes her spiritual growth with her growing talents in leadership.

The book criss-crosses the Atlantic as Dr. Price’s discernment leads her first to England, then Canada, then at the height of her career, back to Carribean where what seemed to be a small job leads her to a position with the United Nations who soon have her working up and down all the Americas and eventually to Ghana and other parts of Africa. It is amazing how many adventures Dr. Price has had and I hope Dr. Price writes more stories explaining in detail how she adapted to so many different cultures and political environments. This autobiography focuses more on her overarching and relationship with God and how she learned to listen for his voice. That is the ultimate secret to the charisma that gave Dr. Price so much success.

Even as someone born in a time when women have more opportunities, I still grew up in an environment that subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) discouraged talents for leadership and entrepreneurship. After so long being told that these qualities were anathema to the virtues of womanhood, it was personally heartening to hear the story of a holy woman who paved her own way in both holiness and career, and to take from her lessons to apply to my own journey. Male readers looking for books to help them grow their leadership skills too will find Dr. Price’s voice a refreshing take on a topic crowded with books that focus on growing the ego rather than faith.

Incidentally, as I was reading this autobiography, I was also rereading Carol Houselander’s classic meditation on Mary, Reed of God. Although Dr. Price didn’t marry until she was in her fifties and had no biological children of her own, her story seemed to echo in practicality the path of Mary’s life that was outlined in abstract in Houselander’s meditations on Mary’s motherhood. It was especially nice to see how a woman who had no biological children and was only married for a short time, lived a life of active spiritual motherhood. Dr. Price mentions that she knows her life to be an encouragement for other black people and people from poorer countries, but I do not know if she comprehends how many people of other backgrounds will also find her story encouraging.

I especially found it enlightening to read a story of a Black woman’s life who lived outside of segregated America during this era. I’ve read many such stories of black people from within my own country during that time period and perhaps have become callous from the frequent retellings. That many of Dr. Price’s white collogues in England and Canada so easily recognized her qualities of leadership and had no qualms about offering her opportunities while women like her in my own country were under such strong discouragement was convicting. This probably won’t occur to non-American readers, though, as Dr. Price spends very little time on her short stint in the USA during the nineties. For her, seeing the strife between white Irishmen and white Englishmen, between Catholics and Protestants, was her own moment of revelation. There is even one remarkable story where her patient and holy attitude even converts a racist professor to becoming one of her strongest supporters.

Formative in her spiritual growth were Dr. Price’s involvement in the St. Vincent de Paul society and the Cursillo Movement. Through these and through the wisdom of her Catholic convert mother, Dr. Price gives practical examples from her life about how to discern God’s will in making decisions and tend to one’s spiritual growth with the same attentiveness we do our worldly careers.

Dr. Price wrote this book at age 85, and the short autobiography often feels like sitting at the feet of a beloved and wise grandmother. My only complaint is that I hope she finds the time to write more. The weakness of this memoir is it often focuses too much on telling us the events than in taking us along Dr. Price’s interior journey in scene. I would have appreciated more in-scene chapters of formative moments in her life that show me how she dealt with frustration and grief in the moment to contrast with her attitude about the challenges as an old woman, but it is pitiful criticism if my only criticism is a desire for MORE of the good things the author is putting out.

If you are seeking a Catholic way to grow in leadership, or working in healthcare, or a new student about to graduate or begin a new phase of your career, or if you are a single person seeking an encouraging story of a person who lived her faith and used her talents to the fullest outside of the traditional married life, I invite you to sit at the feet of this grandmother. To Dr. Price I wish good health, happiness and a busy pen.

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