Photographs by: Laurel Golio
Audrey Gelman is no stranger to leadership. Meet The Wing, a women-only club founded by Audrey, after years of working in both politics and PR. Aptly named to describe a space that is both office and home, official and casual, The Wing offers women a place to go and be between work and home. A space to relax, to change, to meet up with a fellow member, to pump breast milk, to take a private breath during their busy day. Besides numerous physical comforts, The Wing's librarian in residence R. H. Lossin curated an extensive feminist library for members to enjoy. Please read her interview here! Two remarkable women who have helped create a physical and mental space for, as The Wing says, "women on their way" - we at GAL couldn't be more thrilled to interview them this week.
GAL: What was the title of the first book you fell in love with that turned you into a life long reader?
AG: I was an obsessive reader as a kid and especially loved reading series. I would binge read them the way I will binge-watch Netflix today. Some favorites were The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, The All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor, Ramona by Beverly Cleary, The Babysitter's Club by Ann M. Martin, and Goosebumps by R.L. Stine.
GAL: How do you choose the books you read?
AG: I try to avoid Amazon, so I usually make decisions on the spot at IRL bookstores. For new books I like Book Court in Cobble Hill and for old books Book Thug Nation in Williamsburg and Capitol Hill Books in DC. For true crime and thrillers I love The Mysterious Bookstore on Warren Street in Tribeca.
GAL: Do you prefer fiction to non-fiction?
AG: I'm reading my first novel in more than a year right now, Out by Natsuo Kirino about a suburban Tokyo woman who kills her husband. Nine out of ten books I read are non-fiction, but I've made a resolution to get that ratio closer to 50/50 this year.
GAL: What genres of non-fiction do you prefer?
AG: I read almost exclusively non-fiction, specifically history, urban history, true crime and biographies. I love books about local political history - Buzz Bissinger's A Prayer for The City and The Power Broker by Robert Caro are two favorites, but also Chris McNickle's To Be Mayor of New York, and Mike Royko's Boss about Mayor Daley and Chicago politics.
GAL: How did your career in politics and public relations lead you to opening the Wing?
AG: The idea came out of how badly I needed a place like The Wing. When I had the idea, I never could have imagined that it would actually exist and be spatial safety net for women whose proverbial phone batteries are dying. When I worked in politics, I always had a knack for bringing groups of people together that wouldn't normally meet. It was always the creative tension of bringing disparate groups of people together that stimulated me. At The Wing, we have women encountering each other who never would normally cross paths - physicians, teachers, writers, engineers, women in tech and science and politics. Imagining the collective brain power of these women brings a big smile to my face.
GAL: What motivated you to add a library into the concept of The Wing?
AG: I worked in the Mudd Library at Oberlin College and often did the overnight shift on weekends. While everyone else partied, I would watch movies and read until my shift ended at 9am. I loved being in the stacks and really reveled in the feeling of being left alone to do my work while being surrounded by so many opportunities for distraction. From day one I knew that there should be a library in The Wing. I'm excited to catalogue it and make it a living resource that people can lend from and donate to.
GAL: The Wing’s interior embraces a feminine aesthetic. To some the use of pink might seem somewhat antithetical to feminism and to activism. What informed the decision to choose pink for décor?
AG: We wanted create an environment that felt warm and open and get away from the traditional decor of social clubs (dark wood, dark leather, taxidermy).I don't accept that women should have to surrender their affection for the color pink in exchange for being taken seriously.
GAL: If you could host a dinner party for five female literary characters or authors in the Wing’s library, whom would you invite, and why?
AG: Sally Seton (fictional), Scarlett O'Hara (fictional), Rebecca Walker (author, Black White & Jewish, To Be Real), Alice Bag (musician, author of Violence Girl), Angie Martinez
GAL: Is there a particular female character in a book with whom you strongly identify?
AG: Mostly Jo March - she is such a difficult and headstrong character, driven but also ambivalent and often the person standing in the way of her own happiness. I love all the different parts of Jo, including her devotion to her sisters. Sally Seton from Mrs. Dalloway, more rebellious than Jo, is my other favorite.
GAL: If you were to write your memoir, what would you title it?
AG: "Everything I Learned in Business I Learned in the Mosh Pit" by Audrey Gelman
GAL: We have a friend who has a “Sanity Shelf” dedicated to books she returns to again and again, to reread for pleasure, knowledge, and solace. What books would be on your Sanity Shelf?
AG: Pema Chodron, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change
Fran Lebowitz, The Fran Lebowitz Reader
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Joan Didion, Political Fictions
Sylvia Plath, Ariel
Sheila Heti, Leanne Shapton, Heidi Julavits, Women in Clothes
Nora Ephron, Wallflower at the Orgy
GAL: Please name three books you recommend reading,
and the reasons for your choices.
AG: I'm recommending three books that have not yet come out,
because I know they are going to give me life me in 2017:
Durga Chew Bose, Too Much & Not In The Mood
Doree Shafrir, Startup: A Novel