New Memoir ‘Brave-ish’ Shows the Importance of Feminist Mentors and Representation

Opening day at the 74th Session of the U.N. General Assembly. (Lisa Niver)

As a high school student in Los Angeles, I took a women’s studies elective with Joannie Parker. She was a teacher at Westlake School for Girls, and wrote a grant to start this program—the first of its kind in a California high school. She held major leadership positions at the California Abortion Rights Action League, the National Women’s Political Caucus and the National Organization for Women.

She also played a prominent role as the writer and facilitator of California’s state-level Title IX, and as a board member in the Council of Women in Independent Schools. She brought incredible speakers to our Women’s History Week—including Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Maya Angelou. She read to us from Ms. magazine and made us believe that we could be the president—of a company, or even a country.

Some years later, Ms. Parker and I went to lunch, where I told her I had written my first article for Ms. magazine. She was so proud. 

I also called her in 2016 when I was invited to the United Nations for a project called Champions of Humanity. She always believed in each of us as her students and the future. Parker not only believed that I could be a writer, but that I was always a writer; I just needed to believe it myself.

In September 2019, it was my honor to attend the United Nations General Assembly 74 as media on behalf of Ms. As I sat in the meeting for “Gender Equality: From the Biarritz Partnership to the Beijing+25 Generation Equality Forum” with U.N. Women, I kept thinking about the impact that Joannie Parker had on my life.

This year, she would have turned 90. Her teaching inspires me every day to do more and to do better. I wish I could call her to tell her that my memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty, will be published on Sept. 19, 2023.

Please enjoy this except from Brave-ish about my first visit to the United Nations.

The next time I was in New York, I stopped by the office of the Ogilvy PR team to thank them for sending me to Dublin. While I was there, I met the account director for the United Nations project called Champions for Humanity. They were looking for influencers to help them raise awareness for the first ever World Humanitarian Summit, which was designed to address how humanitarian assistance is given to refugees around the globe. They invited 20 of us to the U.N. to learn more about their project, and they wanted us to use our social media feeds to raise awareness and promote humanitarian action.

That was how, a few weeks later, I walked into the lobby of the New York Headquarters of the United Nations, and heard an overhead announcement say, “The Security Council is now in session.” 

After years of participating in Model United Nations in high school, I could not believe that I was at the actual U.N. I felt a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, as though I had simply clicked my heels and magically wound up somewhere that I had always wanted to be. 

I entered a conference room that had been set aside for our group and was delighted to see my name in lights on a little screen in front of my microphone, just like the ones used by the diplomats. I felt honored to be included and recognized as an expert.

When you go to medical school, you get a diploma and a license, and you do a residency, and there are all sorts of steps to be credentialed as an expert along the way. But for a travel blogger, how do you know you’re doing well? How do people differentiate you from someone else? At the United Nations, countries come together to solve the problems of the world. It seemed like confirmation that I had reached a new level of visibility and expertise.

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U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Lisa Niver is the author of Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty and an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. She has articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site We Said Go Travel. For her print, podcast, digital and broadcast segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist 22 times. Niver is also the host of the award-nominated podcast Make Your Own Map.