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Wrestling with the Angel of Democracy: On Being an American Citizen Hardcover – April 8, 2008

6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Democracy is a work in progress as both a political system and a state of mind. Griffin, recipient of a MacArthur grant, continues the unique “social autobiography” she began with A Chorus of Stones: A Private Life of War (1992) in this inquiry into the “interior life of democracy” and the divide between theory and practice. Glimpses into her fractured postwar California childhood, discovery of the profound revelations of nature, passion for jazz, and introduction to social activism illuminate democratic values in the private realm, while a series of fresh and probing profiles strike at the very heart of America’s cruel paradoxes. What contrary forces were at work when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and refused to accept people of color as his equals? How to explain the juxtaposition between Emerson’s perception of the “empathic connection between the human spirit and all life” and the genocidal actions against the Cherokee? Given the legacy of workers’ rights advocate Rose Schneiderman, what underlies today’s conflicts over immigration? With a light yet devastating touch, Griffin charts our continued “wrestling” with democratic ideals as New Orleans is abandoned in the wake of Katrina and the Iraq War is launched with lies. Griffin’s incisive search for the soul of democracy stirs up pride, despair, and hope. --Donna Seaman


“Charming and even lyrical.”—Baltimore Sun

“Unique . . . fresh and probing . . . strikes at the very heart of America's cruel paradoxes. With a light, yet devastating touch, Griffin charts our continued ‘wrestling’ with democratic ideals—her incisive search for the soul of democracy stirs up pride, despair, and hope.”—Booklist, starred review

“An intellectually satisfying account that shows through the stories of selected historical personalities and her own life that democracy is, and always will be, a work in progress.”—Foreword Magazine

“A fascinating retrospective by a thoughtful participant-observer of the past (nearly) fifty years of great tumult in American society.”—New Age Retailer

“Susan Griffin's superb prose reveals democracy not as a distant abstraction but as a live, inspiring, and difficult presence shaping us every day, an angel all Americans wrestle with.”—George Lakoff, author of Whose Freedom? The Battle Over America's Most Important Idea

“In this compelling book Griffin shows us that democracy is not something that we can take for granted. We must continually establish it in our hearts and in our society.”—Maxine Hong Kingston

“Susan Griffin inspires us, once again, to ask the tough questions and follow them with compassion. This is a prose poem, an ode to freedom, elegiac and revolutionary.”—Terry Tempest Williams, author of Refuge and The Open Space of Democracy

“Poetic, personal, political, this powerful new work celebrates the true meaning of freedom. Susan Griffin offers readers a provocative meditation on the culture of democracy.”—bell hooks

“Griffin has removed the rhetorical clichés from democracy and revealed a breathing, sentient angel of wisdom, now held captive by tyranny, money, and our misplaced faith in authority. This is nothing less than cultural poverty steeped in history and heart.”—Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest 

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Trumpeter; First Edition edition (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590302974
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590302972
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,476,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan Griffin has written over twenty books, including non-fiction, poetry and plays. Her work addresses many social and political issues, social justice, the oppression of women, ecology, war and peace, economic inequities and democracy. Often she approaches her subjects at a slant, using and following the music of language, metaphor, stories and incidents from her own life to reveal the underside of larger histories and realms. Her book, A Chorus of Stones, the Private Life of War, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a NY Times Notable book in the year it was published. Woman and Nature, considered a classic of environmental writing, is credited for inspiring the eco-feminist movement. The Book of the Courtesans introduced a hidden chapter in women's history. Along with her co-editor, Karin Carrington, who is a psychotherapist, she has just completed editing an anthology called Transforming Terror, Remembering the Soul of the World, with a preface by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and contributions from thinkers, psychologists, spiritual and political leaders and poets from diverse cultures and religions, including Mahmoud Darwish, Riane Eisler, Fritjof Capra, Huston Smith, Ariel Dorfman, Dan Ellsberg, and Fatema Mernissi. She is at work now on a novel about climate change and a non-fiction book, The Book of Housewifery, about the hidden meanings and values in domesticity. She and her work have been given many awards, among them a Guggenheim Foundation Award and an Emmy.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Peter Y. Sussman on May 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I would not normally presume to review a book I had not yet read; yet the preceding critic has the extraordinary presumption -- even more shocking for a man who identifies himself as an educator -- to both review and rate this book that he acknowledges "I have not read and do not intend to read." What a closed-minded attitude for someone who has taught at a university -- and how grossly unfair to rate a book one refuses to read! Does Amazon not have any guidelines on besmirching an author's reputation by ranking a book one won't read?

I too have not read this book (yet, in my case), but I have certainly read enough from Prof. Campbell to be alarmed at the level of intellectual curiosity and teaching at one branch of the California State University system. His comments violate everything I cherish about intellectual inquiry.

Although I have not yet read "Wrestling ...," I did hear a KQED interview with Ms. Griffin, presumably the one that Emeritus Prof. Campbell heard. I found Ms. Griffin's views to be honest, compelling and challenging. I can't wait to read her book, and I urge others to do the same. She invites reasoned inquiry; Emeritus Prof. Campbell forecloses it, sight unseen.

Peter Y. Sussman, journalist and author
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Louise Steinman on March 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is an essential text for anyone interesting in thinking deeply about democracy and the relationship between private and public life. Griffin's study is passionate and deeply reasoned, rigorously structured and open-ended. She allows you to consider paradoxes in the American historical canon. Her studies of Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Roses Schneiderman and others are deeply perceptive. I recommend it highly to all who are willing, as Terry Tempest Williams writes, "to ask the tough questions and follow them with compassion." A brilliant book.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By cosi fabian on May 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have to agree that the Professor's review is specious - and mistaken. Griffin did indeed talk of just who "we, the people" were at this country's founding. She demonstrated her wit, intelligence, and deep knowledge of democracy. If you're curious about the radio interview in question, and Krazny the host is one of the best at his job, you can hear it at It does serve as an engaging introduction to an important book.
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