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Heading out
Author - Edited by Gloria Kamen

Heading out: The start of some splendid careers


The book Heading Out tells us about the turning point in the lives of highly successful people that propelled them towards success. It chooses 24 people - writers, artists, scientists, doctors, inventors, businessmen, politicians and sportspeople. It is awe-inspiring to read about the odds they faced. It is gratifying to read that every one of them overcame the odds through sheer hard work and tenacity.
Issac Asimov describes his humiliating experience as a fourteen-year-old when he wrote a ‘fantastic’ story just to have it rejected. But he was happy enough to have got ‘an hour to spend with John Campbell, the thrill of talking face to face and on even terms with an idol.’ It inspired him to write another science fiction story so that he could try and meet him again! Today Asimov is one of the leading science fiction writers in the world.
Many of us would have seen the documentaries made by Ken Burns, although some of us might known him by his work rather than his name. Early in his life, when he was 11, his mother died after a long struggle with cancer. Burns decided to major in filmmaking. He wanted to head to Hollywood, but his teachers changed his way of thinking. ‘They reminded me that there was so much more drama in what is and what was than anything human imagination could think of that I was completely turned around and decided to become a documentary filmmaker.’ He describes his earlier struggles: ‘When you become a documentary filmmaker you take a vow of poverty and anonymity’.
There are many exceptional women covered in this collection. Mae Jemison is one of them. In her autobiography, titled ‘Find where the wind goes,’ the astronaut describes all the twists and turns of her growing up with two older siblings and caring parents. But she was always doing was ‘testing limits- mine and other people’s…I would look around for an opportunity and find a potential way to get it done.’ She had to walk in many directions to catch up with her dreams. She learnt to speak Swahili, entered medical school, and finally became the only women astronaut on the spaceship Endeavor in 1987.
Nelson Mandela writes that his decision to fight for the rights of his people did not have a single defining moment. He says that it was, ‘but a steady accumulation of thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments, produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, and a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.’
Boris Yelstin recalls that he had never seen the country until he entered the polytechnic, ‘I had never been to the sea and never traveled anywhere far from home. With no money in my pocket and little clothing I left …’
Lance Armstrong the American cyclist, took his mother’s advice, ‘make every obstacle an opportunity,’ to heart and won over every obstacle, including cancer. He has won the Tour de France a record number of times.
After reading the book, I wondered, why is no one in India attempting this kind of a book for teens? I have no good answer. I hope that will be remedied soon. For it will serve as a valuable guide for generations of teens. Heading out should find its place in all libraries, and deserves to be read and re-read by teens, parents and teachers.

Title: Heading out: The start of some splendid careers
Author: Edited by Gloria Kamen
Price: USD 16.95
Number of pages: 200
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Bloomsbury, New York,
Year of Publication: 2003.

Review - Rani Iyer

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