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Avel Gordly

OPB | April 22, 2011 9:20 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 10:01 p.m.

Oregon State University Press

In her autobiography, Avel Gordly talks about her extensive experience in Oregon politics. She left the State Legislature in 2009 after serving 17 years, first in the House and later as the first African American woman in the State Senate. She writes about an uphill battle against nepotism and making strides for cultural sensitivity in many areas of state policy. She also writes about the racism she encountered, even within the Capitol building. She says she was often pigeon-holed as one of the few African American legislators and was constantly compared to Senator Margaret Carter:

Once I was walking from one chamber to the other in the capitol. I would look up in the gallery on the House side. As I was walking, a group tour came through. The guide said: “Oh, there is Senator Carter,” adding, “She’s the one who sings for us all the time.” She was referring to me. And I said, “Oh no, no. I’m Gordly.” And she said, “No, you’re Carter.” And I said, “No, I’m Gordly.” And a third time — a third time! — she told me that I was Carter. 

In addition to the political struggles she chronicles in her book, Gordly also writes openly and honestly about her own battle with depression and the sexual abuse she experienced as a child. Gordly says she plans to write another book focused more on mental health issues in the future.

Have you followed Avel Gordly’s career? What would you like to ask her?

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