In Reviewer’s Bookwatch, Volume 24, Number 6 (June 2024)

Midwest Review of Books 

Susan Bethany’s Bookshelf

Experience Is the Angled Road
R. Barbara Gitenstein
Koehler Books
9781646637539, $25.95, HC, 234pp

Synopsis: While “Experience Is the Angled Road: Memoir of an Academic” by Professor R. Barbara Gitenstein is about leadership, it is not a handbook on how to be a leader. It is the personal life story of a Jewish woman, academician, and educator.

When her parents moved from New York City to a small town in Alabama, R. Barbara Gitenstein knew that as a Jew and a northerner she just did not fit. After leaving for boarding school in the eighth grade, she discovered that it was more than being Jewish and a Yankee that made her an oddity. She was also an intellectual, plus she loved classical music.

Before entering academe, Barbara Gitenstein learned to lead from the periphery, benefitting from exceptional and surprising mentors. She survived painful loss and life-changing challenges. “Experience Is the Angled Road” is her memoir in which she fully captures the shock and the humor she faced when confronting the obstacles of being the only “whatever” in the room be it as a woman, a Jew, a Southerner, and/or a liberal.

Critique: A fascinating, candid, informative, and deftly crafted life story that will have a prolific resonance with readers whose own life story is one of being an unconformist (especially a intellectually and academically minded one) “Experience Is the Angled Road: Memoir of an Academic” is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and college/university library Jewish & Women’s Biography/Memoir collections. It should be noted that “Experience Is the Angled Road: Memoir of an Academic” is also readily available from Koehler Books in a paperback edition (9781646637515, $17.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: R. Barbara Gitenstein ( is the author of some thirty academic articles on Jewish-American literature and academic administration as well as the monograph Apocalyptic Messianism and Jewish-American Poetry. She has made over 100 presentations at literature and academic administrative conferences. She was often interviewed on radio and television stations in New Jersey, focusing on higher education issues. After receiving a BA with honors from Duke University and a PhD in English and American literature from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, followed by fifteen years as a full-time English professor, she served as provost and executive vice president at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and as president of the College of New Jersey in Ewing, New Jersey.