Harley and Me: Embracing Risk On the Road to a More Authentic Life
(Counterpoint Press, May 2016)
What happens when women in midlife step out of what’s predictable? For Bernadette Murphy, learning to ride a motorcycle at forty-eight becomes the catalyst that transforms her from a settled wife and professor with three teenage children into a woman on her own. The confidence she gained from mastering a new skill and conquering her fears gave her the courage to face deeper issues in her own life and start taking risks. It is a fact that men and women alike become more risk averse in our later years —which according to psychologists and neuroscience is exactly what we should not do. And Murphy stresses that while hers is a story of transformation using a physical risk, emotional and educational risks can serve the same beneficial purpose for other women.
Murphy uses her own story to explore the larger idea of how risk changes our brain chemistry, how certain personality types embrace dangerous behavior and why it energizes them, and why women’s expectations change once estrogen levels drop after the childbearing years. She also explores the idea of women and risk in pop culture—why there are so few stories of the conquering heroine (instead of hero). Surely Thelma and Louise driving off the cliff should not be our only pop culture reference for women finding true freedom.
With scientific research and journalistic interviews weaving through a page-turning, road trip narrative, Harley and Me is a compelling look at how one woman changed her life and found deeper meaning out on the open road.
Praise for Harley and Me
“In Harley and Me, Bernadette Murphy gives us a road-map for re-wilding a conventional life. This timely memoir is not about getting your life together, it’s how to loosen up on a well-lived life and make space for the unexpected. Inspiring, funny, and honest, Murphy puts to rest the old myth that adventurous women always end badly.”
–Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint It Black
“The reason so many people’s lives begin to truncate and get small as they move through time is because they’ve lost the ability to take a risk. Even if that risk is as small as going to a party alone where you don’t know anyone. We can all learn to take more risks. Especially when we realize how robust the payoff is. Whether riding a Harley or learning how to dance, taking risks can enhance your life and health on every level. Let Harley and Me be your guide.”
—Christiane Northrup, M.D., New York Times bestselling author of Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Wellbeing
“After reading Harley and Me, I now know that without risk, you can’t ride into the center of your life, with or without a motorcycle.”
“With her trademark warmth and sagacity, Bernadette Murphy has penned both a lyrical memoir and a battle cry for personal transformation. She delivers an essential tale, rich with truth and lyricism. Murphy is a master storyteller with a keen wit and a gift for inspiration.”
—Jillian Lauren, author of New York Times bestseller Some Girls: My Life in a Harem and Everything You Ever Wanted
“Harley and Me is a whip smart, revelatory investigation into the science of risk-taking and a brave memoir of personal growth. Everyone’s life crashes at some point, but what Bernadette Murphy did to pull herself upright again makes this book a thrilling ride all the way. It’s a road more people ought to travel. You don’t have to be a biker or a woman to get what’s going on here, Harley and Me is for all of us. But after reading it you may end up buying a motorcycle. I did.”
—Peter Nichols, bestselling author of The Rocks and A Voyage for Madmen
“Lovingly researched and compulsively readable, Harley and Me should come with a warning label: CAUTION! This book will change your life—and in ways you can’t yet imagine.”
—Michelle Huneven, author of Blame and Off Course
“For any woman who has ever needed to adapt or die, Harley and Me is essential reading. Beyond familiar platitudes of loving ourselves and being brave and never giving up, Bernadette Murphy’s luminous book shows us how to take risks that make us fierce and vulnerable, knowing that true strength is about being generous as much as it is about not giving in.”
—Emily Rapp Black, author of The Still Point of the Turning World and Poster Child
“Bernadette Murphy’s road memoir is a stirring reminder that it’s never too late to become the person you were meant to be. I may never ride a Harley, but Murphy’s story has me longing to jump into the driver’s seat of my own grand adventure. It’s a call to discover the world, take risks, and lean in to possibility. Who says getting older has to mean settling down?”
—Sarah Hepola, New York Times bestselling author of Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget and former personal essays editor at Salon.com
Bernadette Murphy has published three books of creative nonfiction: The Tao Gals’ Guide to Real Estate, The Knitter’s Gift, and the bestselling Zen and the Art of Knitting, in which she uses memoir and reportage to explore the connection between fiber arts, creativity, and spirituality. She served for six years as a weekly book critic for the Los Angeles Times. Her personal narratives and essays on literature have appeared in The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Manifest Station, BOOK Magazine, Ms. Magazine, LA Weekly, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times Magazine, and elsewhere. She currently serves as core faculty in creative nonfiction at the Antioch University Los Angeles MFA program.