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Soul on Ice Paperback – January 12, 1999

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (January 12, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038533379X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385333795
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A collection of essays straight out of Dante's Inferno. The hell is there, and its name is America...as with Malcolm X, Cleaver's book is a spiritual autobiography. An odyssey of a soul in search of itself, groping toward a personal humanism which will give meaning to life...the book is important...the book is extraordinary."—Shane Stevens, The Progressive

"A remarkable book...beautifully written...Eldridge Cleaver makes you twist and flinch...he throws light on the dark areas that we wish he would leave alone."—The Nation

"Brilliant and revealing."—New York Times Book Review

"All the essays [in Soul on Ice] deal with racial hurt, racial struggle, and racial pride...Eldridge Cleaver is a promising and powerful writer, an intelligent and turbulent and passionate and eloquent man."—Robert Coles, Atlantic Monthly

From the Publisher

The searingly honest memoirs of the man who shocked, outraged and ultimately changed the way America looked at the civil rights movement remain today as a testament to the man's intelligence, insightfulness, and place in American history. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Didn't Jesus tell people to love your enemies, not hating and violating them?
La Reyna
In Ismael Reed's preface in this extraordinary book, is a most fitting description of Cleaver, given first by Amiri Baraka: Bohemian Anarchist!
I had no desire to experience life behind bars as white critics and so-call academics do.
Ron Wilder

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 81 people found the following review helpful By matthewslaughter on August 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
Even though this was one of the most important and popular books of the 1960s, it is not discussed that much now, some thirty-five years after its initial publication. "Soul on Ice" is as much an allegorical masterpiece as it is a real description of black male (whom he refers to as Supermasculine Menials) attitudes towards prison-life, white racism (and white women in particular, who are here referred to as Ogres and the Ultrafeminines) and the Nation of Islam (Cleaver writes compellingly about his disassociation with the Nation, citing their racism--"The onus of teaching racial supremacy and hate, which is the white man's burden, is pretty hard to bear"). Cleaver's at-times amazing writing gives this book a peculiar power, and given this, it is easy to understand why the book was so popular in the late 1960s. For several reasons, though, it is easy to see why this book doesn't get as much attention as, say, James Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time" [1963]. The chapter on Baldwin in "Soul on Ice," entitled "Notes on a Native Son" (a reference to one of Baldwin's early essays) is exceedingly homophobic, and other sections fairly hateful towards women (even though, in this regard, Cleaver is at times aware of his own misogyny--especially in his blushingly honest letters to one-time attorney Beverly Axelrod) and exceedingly macho. Many contemporary readers might not have the patience for this (especially given Baldwin's elevated status in the world of literature). Also, this book has lost some of its bite over the years because of excellent books written by participants in the Black Power Movement and the Black Panther Party. "Soul on Ice"--especially when compared with George Jackson's "Soledad Brother" (1971), Huey P. Newton's "Revolutionary Suicide" (1973), Amiri Baraka (1984) and Angela Y.Read more ›
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By "trevisol" on November 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Eldridge Cleaver writes his memoirs here, and much of the book seeks to justify his actions and sentiments. It is as if he knows that his actions have been looked down upon by America and he needs to tell us where he is coming from. I found it shocking, not only that he should admit to raping women, both white and black, but more so that he makes excuses for why he HAD to rape them. He also explains his veiws on the inferiority complex that has plagued the African American since slavery, and his motivation for violent response. These views, though, are exceedingly hard to sift out of the pontificatory run-on sentance that permeates this book. He will launch into the feelings of a black woman in this society, and while his point may be valid, his statement consists of two pages of metaphorical secondary clauses. But, for all of his circumlocution, Cleaver's points provide great insight not only into a black revolutionary, but a convict, a Muslim after the style of Malcom X, and the african american experience in general. In all, his thoughts are hauntingly true.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Anj on October 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
Soul on Ice, written by Eldrige Cleaver is a collection of essays (written during his 9 years in Folsom State Prison during the 1960's) in which Cleaver discovers his racial identity. "I knew I was black, but never really stopped to take stock of what i was involved in. I met life as an individual and took my chances." Cleaver was sentenced 9 years for raping a white woman. Cleaver felt his crime was a way to "spit" on the white man's values and women. He lived his life only to benefit himself. After meeting with his attorney, he realizes the value of listening and absorbing what another human being has to say. "The price of hating other human beings is loving one's self less." Cleaver, educating himself in prison, also writes "In prison those things held and denied from the prisoner become precisely what he wants most of all."

Cleaver becomes especially interested in the writings of Thomas Merton, particularly his excerpt on the "New York Black Ghetto: Harlem." After many religious endeavors, Cleaver found himself most intrigued by the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X. Malcolm X appealed to the black convicts caught in the vicious prison paroll cycle, like himself. One aspect in which Cleaver felt most attracted to in Malcolm was that the society owed a debt to prisoners and not vice versa. Malcolm X did not "compromise truth to have favor with the white power structure." The American tactic was to emmasculate the black leadership and to manipulate them. The unique black leader who would defy white power would ultimately end up dead, in prison, or forced out of the country. Classic illustrations of this policy are the careers of Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. Dubois, and Paul Robeson.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Best Of All on October 17, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The FBI could not have created a better person to sow the seeds of destruction for the Black Panther Party than Eldridge Cleaver.

The treatise from jail - before Cleaver became a BPP member - catapulted him into the 1960s revolutionary/black power movements. But his so-called consciousness was never for the greater good of the whole.

Cleaver failed to gain control of the BPP during his time in exile - and when he was essentially booted out of Cuba - by making what he felt was a left-turn by placing the organization into solidarity with nation's "at war" with U.S. imperialism. The attempted coup was foiled when Huey Newton kicked Cleaver and his followers out of the party. But Cleaver sounded so good when barking out orders thousands of miles away!

The split began the fragmentation of the party. I contend it was the cornerstone development for the U.S. government to manipulate as a means to destroy the party from within. And I still have questions concerning the police shoot-out where Cleaver emerged basically unscathed, but his comrade in arms was shot dead.

Cleaver - a convicted rapist - was legendary for his physical/verbal abuse of women. Again, the sickening spector of control through intimidation.

It should have come as no surprise to anyone that years later Cleaver made an abrupt political turn into a right-extremist camp. He feared not being the head of the game, and with no place to turn on the left, Cleaver scampered to the right in hopes his new friends would pick him as captain of the team.

As a slice of American History, Soul On Ice remains an essential read. But Cleaver's ideology cut severe wounds in the BPP, caused death and dissension, while arguably driving Newton into consolidating a national party into one Oakland chapter.

Cleaver a revolutionary? Hardly. An egotistical coward? Yes.
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