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Heartbreak : The Political Memoir Of A Feminist Militant Hardcover – February 19, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (February 19, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465017533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465017539
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,904,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this roughly chronological account of her political formation, Dworkin, a prolific writer and ardent antipornography activist, shares the moments her "memory insists on," things "it will not let go." Thus, from grade school through college (what she calls "the archetypical brothel"), there are sexually predatory teachers, morally bankrupt intellectuals and plenty of molested and "incested" victims. The moral compass of these anecdotes can be dizzying. Dworkin's pedophilic high school teacher running a "menage a quatre" with a couple of her girlfriends was "the snake" offering worldly knowledge; she was his "little Eva" going along with his games. Yet there's no restraining the venom when it comes to an overly prim junior high English teacher who had the nerve to try to comfort her when she was mad about getting a B: "I knew I'd get her someday and this is it: eat shit, bitch." Her college years yielded a few political insurrection anecdotes, followed by some European travel stories, but the narrative segues increasingly into discussions of rape and other forms of violence against women. Jail's too good for most rapists and batterers; she'd have their victims shoot them dead. When "pedophile" Allen Ginsberg fretted about being sent to jail after the Supreme Court upheld the criminalization of child porn, she wished him dead, too. She ends with a long-winded lament of "the worst immoralit[ies]" mostly concerning selling out one's principles, giving up and pretending not to see injustices which all boil down to "a single sin of human nothingness and stupidity." "I don't care about being understood," Dworkin concludes, but not being understood may be the least ofher problems here. Agent, Elaine Markson. (Mar. 1)Forecast:This memoir covers little new ground, but at least it's much shorter than Dworkin's previous works. This and the book's timing (its publication coincides with Women's History Month) may entice readers.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


"A heart-healing journey of redemption and realization." -- The San Jose Mercury News, 3/26/02

"Authentic, unique, and admirable." -- The Boston Globe, 3/24/02

"Searing and tough; inspiring for aspiring feminists, enlightening for the study of women." -- The St. Petersburg Times, 3/24/02

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant" by Andrea Dworkin was kind of a surprising little book. I wanted it because I wanted to know more about Dworkin's career and politics, and I learned some about each from this, but obliquely, like through a scrim. The writing feels like it's been done from a distance, almost, which I guess most memoirs are, but when she's writing about the stories of women who were
raped or prostituted, the gloves come off, the profanity is on and she is harsh, tough and up-close.
She's harsh, politically, too. She has very definite positions and seems to believe that if you don't think like her, you're in most ways a hypocrite. She is very negative about the national organization of NOW, but positive about local chapters and organizers. She does at one point concede that some of the people who don't want to abolish pornography on free-speech grounds aren't all evil, but that's as close as she gets to
empathy for those on the left who are working, but not in tandem with her. I had read in a gender issues text at one time an essay that she co-wrote with Catherine A. MacKinnon - they wanted to get pornography outlawed on civil rights precedent - but this was pretty "naked" in comparison with that persuasive writing.
The title comes from the idea that she feels heartbreak all the time because of the women she meets who have been hurt by men and by women who would rather please men than help their sisters. She does seem very raw and disappointed with the world. A quote on the back of the book reads, "We should all treat
Andrea Dworkin like a national treasure for caring enough to engage our passions - wherever upon the political or social spectrum they may fall.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Andrea Dworkin's tell-all this is not. That's hardly surprising, given that Dworkin is one of the most maligned women in the world, and any details she shares about her life are likely to be met with suspicion at best. What is disappointing is that the book is presented as a memoir and is not. It is a series of episodic, highly selective anecdotes, presented in roughly chronological order but confusing as to subjective and objective significance. Somewhere in the puzzle there is a truly heartbreaking story--that of a brilliant, courageous, talented woman set on wrong turns early and with malice aforethought by a society that could only recognize intelligence in a woman as perversity and perversity as sexual. Even growing up in Camden, New Jersey, Dworkin's gifts were recognized by her teachers, but women teachers resented her and male teachers tried to seduce her. Dworkin's refusal to conform closed the usual paths of resistance to seduction: female chastity and lack of adventurousness. She went in the opposite extreme, experimenting sexually at an early age, valuing her independence but remaining essentially gullible, loving books and the male model of the social outcast, while at the same time picking up few practical skills. It never was spelled out to her that male bohemians survived because on the one hand, they didn't have to worry about rape, number two, no one would expect them to sell their bodies, and number three, they often knew how to use others to their advantage. By the time Dworkin began to figure it out, she had been through prostitution, several rapes, an abusive marriage, and sexual degradation by doctors in the Women's House of Detention in New York, which her testimony (as an antiwar prisoner) helped to bring down.Read more ›
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20 of 29 people found the following review helpful By "blissengine" on March 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I've never read anything by Dworkin before, so I was quite amazed by this collection of memoir essays. In each, Andrea Dworkin relays memories that helped shape her politics, her life, her intensity. For me, the book came alive and turned electric like Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues" did, where ultimately it caused my eyes to become more open to social politics. Dworkin's memoir shows that sometimes tiny events can cause one to change, and sometimes the change is almost imperceptible until later reflection. It's amazing to see how a voracious reader and a zealous advocate began.
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27 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I was kind of psyched to read Heartbreak. I'd come to AD because of research I had done on hate speech and pornography; she coauthored anti-pornography legislation with Catherine McKinnon. Then I thought, well, someone so famous and yet seemingly crazy (consensual sex is rape, penetration is violence, etc--) must have something interesting going on.... Her longwinded denunciations of heterosexual men and sex elsewhere contrast with her own life as she tells it here. Yes, she has horror stories about rape, but also 'glory stories' about bedding famous artists and teachers she worshipped.
Frankly, this book reads well in parts -- there are some evocative stories, and Dworkin has a convert's zeal -- but the bulk is painfully bad. It's the kind of thing you should tell your therapist -- who gets paid to listen to your evasions and half-truths. Google "doubts about dworkin" for a Guardian article on Dworkin's rape accusation (Dworkin backs away a little from this in Heartbreak.)
I spend my life reading books I don't agree with, trying to tease out the fair bits from the rhetoric. Realizing that I could have deep, irrational reasons for not liking her (and that this would perhaps be a Dworkin fan's first response), I worked doubly hard to read with sympathy. I gave her every free pass in the book: I trusted blindly every statistic and every second-hand story, down to the last detail. Any construction of the facts that could resolve apparent errors of logic or reasoning I gave her.
In the end, my efforts were a failure. Dworkin has gone off the deep end into paranoid delusion, hurting those she claims to help with her own neurosis and need for self-display. It verges into a hatred that is unclearly focused on both herself and others.
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