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From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement Hardcover – September 28, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Essential reading for anyone seriously studying the farm worker movement.”
(Fernando Gapasin Working USA 2012-12-01)

“Garcia has compiled the most comprehensive history on the United Farm Workers to date, with many new oral histories that will change how we think about the UFW.”
(Kristen Yinger Los Angeles Magazine 2012-09-01)

“A thorough history of the rise and fall of Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers labor union. . . . Meticulous and timely.”
(Kirkus Reviews 2012-09-01)

"Riveting."
(M. Greenwald Choice 2013-06-01)

"Garcia’s critique is informed by original research and motivated by his remembrance of a time when farm workers’ lives were improving."
(Journal of American Ethnic History 2014-05-01)

From the Inside Flap

“Matt Garcia's explosive new history of the United Farm Workers offers an absolutely stunning set of revelations about the internal life of that union while at the same time demonstrating the creative brilliance of those who organized the most important and successful boycott movement since the eve of the American Revolution itself.” —Nelson Lichtenstein, MacArthur Foundation Chair in History, University of California, Santa Barbara



“Matt Garcia’s From The Jaws Of Victory has done a great service in not only chronicling in all its compelling detail what once promised to be an unprecedented revolution in the organization of agri-business and the status of its workers, but also in telling this story with all its shadows, flaws, and shortfalls included. Rather than give us a statue in the park with which to track and remember our history, Garcia has given us a living, breathing monument to our actual selves and to who we might have been or yet might be. From The Jaws of Victory is full of perspective, understanding, and respect, a must for anyone who wants to follow the tracks of an uprising in stature and sensibility that powered some of the poorest and hardest working Americans through their rise and fall on the national stage.” —David Harris, author of The Crisis: The President, the Prophet, and the Shah—1979 and the Coming of Militant Islam



"From the Jaws of Victory is an essential contribution to the growing body of work on Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers' movement. This unabashedly objective, disciplined, and honest work adds critical new textures to the portrait of an American icon and his complex legacy." —Hector Tobar, author of Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States



“Matt Garcia's Jaws of Victory is a gripping, thoroughly researched narrative about the rise and fall of the UFW. The reader will come away with an entirely new perspective on the UFW and its iconic leader, Cesar Chavez. Garcia pulls no punches, and, consequently, the reader is in for a roller-coaster ride of emotion as the author unravels the cocoon that has enshrined the image of Chavez for decades. This book is the historian's craft at its best as Garcia painstakingly takes us through a bevy of untapped primary sources to show us the complex nature of the UFW as it lead the cause for agricultural workers' rights. Garcia reminds us that the UFW should not be defined merely by its leader, but should be understood as a collective group of dedicated, although sometimes flawed, individuals, who transformed the way the American public thought about food consumption and workers' rights.” —Maria E. Montoya, author of Translating Property: The Maxwell Land Grant and the Conflict Over Land in the American West, 1840-1900



"Matt Garcia places the reader right in the center of the struggles to create, build, and grow the farm workers movement, represented by the emergence of the United Farm Workers of America. But he does more than that. He examines the story of UFW leader Cesar Chavez, not from the standpoint of either further canonizing him or from tearing him down, but from the standpoint of understanding the circumstances in which he was operating, the decisions he made, and some of the fateful mistakes that have had a lasting impact on the UFW. This book made me think of the famous words of the late freedom fighter Amilcar Cabral, who cautioned justice movements to ‘tell no lies; claim no easy victories.’” —Bill Fletcher, Jr., co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice



"Matt Garcia's activist scholarship and participant observer methods give voice to the volunteers that were the backbone of the farm worker movement. Garcia reveals two themes that are untouched by recent critiques: that the Teamster Union acted at the behest of Richard Nixon, and that Cesar Chavez may never have intended the UFW to be a union in the traditional sense, but instead a model for communal living." —Fernando Gapasin, co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (September 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520259300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520259300
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #651,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matt Garcia is the director of the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. He also directs the Comparative Border Studies Program. He previously taught at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, the University of Oregon, and Brown University. His first book, A World of Its Own: Race, Labor and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970 was named co-winner for the best book in oral history by the Oral History Association in 2003 and received an Honorable Mention from the American Studies Association that same year. From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement is based on oral histories conducted by Garcia, newly discovered audiotapes of Chavez and the UFW leadership in the 1970s, the UFW Collection at the Walter Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit, and reflections on the UFW from movement veterans present in the Farmworker Documentation Project. It took Garcia over ten years to complete the book. He also co-edited Mapping Latina/o Studies with Angharad Valdivia, published by Peter Lang in 2012. He was the outreach director and co-primary investigator for the Bracero Archive Project, which was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant in 2008, and the recipient of the Best Public History Award by the National Council for Public History in 2009-2010.

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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mark bennett on October 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a pull no punches but fair reapprasal of Cesar Chavez and the UFW movement he led. Its strong points is that it provides good windows into the history of the UFW before and after it was on the national media radar. It tends to have much good to say about the man who built the movement in its early days and little good to say what the movement turned into after the mid-to-late 1970s. Its a good and fair antidote to the many haliographic books written about the man.

The book isn't perfect however. The author tends to see Chavez as a bigger figure than he often was and see a relivance in issues today that is often questionable such as those concerned with "better" food or "local" food. He also tends to make some rather questionable contrasts between the Chavez movement and other political movements of the 1970s.

He also fails sometimes to see the big picture. That the movement's supposed strength in its appeal & support beyond the workers themselves was both what led it to a kind of victory and led to its demise. He tends to ignore the contradictions within the movement and simply blame Chavez. He fails to understand that what "La Paz" turned into was what many of the more wealthy and influential supporters of the movement wanted. That those people were often ar more interested in a hardcore political training center in a nice remote area than they were in the "boring" business of organizing workers and running a union day to day near the fields.

He also tends not to understand the literal price of "fame" in a media sense. That those figures the national media "makes", it demands things of in exchange and will "break" those same people if they don't play the game. Chavez played the game.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nichi on March 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Bought this book on my iPad and started reading during jury duty. Great read. Very interesting and informative well written book.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Addison Dewit VINE VOICE on June 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was very much involved with the boycott while I was in high school in Marin. I believe the years would have been 1975-77, just when things apparently were falling apart at the seams. In the fields, we weren't aware of this. The book never captures the energy of a picket line or just how we'd stand outside the grocery stores asking people to not buy grapes and trying to bumpersticker their cars. Or the huge thrill of a convention, seeing farmworkers treated like superstars and then marching single file down the highway. Of course it was the romantic stuff but it was just as much a part of the movement as anything else.
The book documents the rise and the fall of the movement but it never quite expresses how exciting a time it or quite how charismatic both Cesar Chavez (and Dolores Huerta) were. Throughout the book I felt an negative bias against Chavez until the very end notes when the author sums up the experience. I also felt he enjoyed documenting the last meeting where everything unravels just a bit too much. But the story is great and there are so many lessons to be learned. Cesar did a tremendous amount of good and was a victim to his own fame or burnout or bad influences. But if doesn't negate what anyone did and it was a great moment in time.
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