Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography Hardcover – March 25, 2014
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
*Starred Review* Pawel, rigorous and captivating, follows her history of Cesar Chavez’s crusade to protect farm workers’ rights, The Union of Their Dreams (2009), with a zestful, dramatic, and redefining biography of the innovative, daring, and persevering activist. Raised by his strong mother to embrace sacrifice and help others, Chavez (1927–93) dropped out of school to work in the fields to support his destitute, homeless family, joining the ranks of California’s exploited Mexican American migrant workers. Driven by his social conscience, pragmatic genius, and motivational ardor; inspired by Gandhi; and mentored by the highly unorthodox Father Donald McDonnell and Saul Alinsky disciple and community organizer Fred Ross, Chavez created a scrappy and revolutionary labor union for “the poorest, most powerless workers in the country.” Pawel thoroughly chronicles every aspect of Chavez’s battles against California’s politically dominant produce growers, from audacious strikes to the now legendary national grape boycott to his penitential fasts. As she insightfully dissects Chavez’s troubled relationships with his inner circle and each phase in the rise and fall of his increasingly complex and mismanaged organization, Pawel portrays a visionary civil rights leader whose fame and near-beatification engendered tragic misuses of power, but who improved countless lives and raised global consciousness. Chavez’s epic story, told so astutely and passionately by Pawel, is essential to understanding today’s struggles for justice and equality. --Donna Seaman
“[An] honest, exhaustively researched biography of Cesar Chavez, the charismatic leader and founder of the United Farm Workers who famously led strikes and boycotts to improve the lot of grape pickers in the 1960s. The Crusades of Cesar Chavez is a biography for readers who find real human beings more compelling than icons and history more relevant than fantasy.” ―Los Angeles Times
“The first comprehensive biography of the spectacular rise and messy decline of the United Farm Workers Union, and the man who struck the sparks that launched an epic American social movement.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“Engrossing . . . There is so much brilliant political theater in this book that it's easy to see why Chavez is still the most celebrated Latino leader in American history.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Powerful and captivating, this first comprehensive biography of Latino rights leader Cesar Chavez traces the story of a man from migrant worker to union leader to icon. Though a historical figurehead, this book doesn't shy away from Chavez's moral blemishes, but paints him as a man of deep humanity…The Crusades of Cesar Chavez is an honest, well-rounded look at one of the 20th century's greatest leaders.” ―Los Angeles Magazine
“Pawel, rigorous and captivating, follows her history of Cesar Chavez's crusade to protect farm workers' rights, The Union of Their Dreams, with a zestful, dramatic, and redefining biography of the innovative, daring, and persevering activist…Pawel thoroughly chronicles every aspect of Chavez's battles against California's politically dominant produce growers, from audacious strikes to the now legendary national grape boycott to his penitential fasts. As she insightfully dissects Chavez's troubled relationships with his inner circle and each phase in the rise and fall of his increasingly complex and mismanaged organization, Pawel portrays a visionary civil rights leader whose fame and near-beatification engendered tragic misuses of power, but who improved countless lives and raised global consciousness. Chavez's epic story, told so astutely and passionately by Pawel, is essential to understanding today's struggles for justice and equality.” ―Booklist, starred review
“Pawel paints a complex portrait of Chavez with all his strengths and weaknesses...The author's insightful, painstakingly researched, and thoughtful work makes Chavez all the more dimensional and nuanced by recognizing his failings as well as his successes. This fully rounded portrait could well be the definitive biography of this all too human figure. ” ―Library Journal, starred review
“A comprehensive portrait... Pawel's clear, accessible prose befits a subject famous for his plain rhetoric, ensuring a broad readership can appreciate this valuable exploration of Chavez's unique legacy. ” ―Publishers Weekly
“A warts-and-all biography of an important figure. ” ―Kirkus Reviews
“The most comprehensive and accurate book on the life and work of Cesar Chavez. It is extremely factual, and Pawel lets those facts speak for themselves. She has no agenda or desired outcome in the book. The book highlights the complexity of Cesar Chavez as a person, and does not hesitate to point out all of the virtues and shortcomings of Cesar's work in trying to organize California's farm workers. If you are interested in obtaining one of the best books on Cesar Chavez, this is the one.” ―Cardinal Roger Mahoney
“Miriam Pawel's new biography The Crusades of Cesar Chavez, massively researched and expertly written, is a welcome expansion and enrichment of her earlier study The Union of Their Dreams. Together they represent the definitive story of this charismatic farm worker and controversial visionary leader whose courage and near-genius as an organizer invigorated the stormy history of American labor.” ―Peter Matthiessen, author of Shadow Country and Sal Si Puedes: Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution
“Miriam Pawel's magnificent biography of Cesar Chavez has the force and scope of a great American novel. Here is the story of a man, from the humblest beginnings, who became a labor organizer as famous as any; here is a deeply flawed man who yearned to be a saint.” ―Richard Rodriguez, author of Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography and Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez
“Pawel has given us an inspiring book. It introduces us to a formidable leader who drew America's most disadvantaged workers into a powerful movement. And yet every reader will identify with Cesar Chavez' human foibles; every discouraged political visionary will be moved by his story.” ―Alice Kessler-Harris, author of A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman
“Guau! Miriam Pawel has finally given us the Cesar Chavez we deserve: neither a saint nor a bully but a complex American activist who rose to the occasion with courage, astuteness, and intuition, but was also clumsy, misinformed, and nearsighted. Written in a beautifully nuanced style and displaying enviable depth of knowledge, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez is a masterpiece. Future biographies will be measured against it.” ―Ilan Stavans, Amherst College, author of The United States of Mestizo
“Miriam Pawel has produced the definitive account--a lucid, thoughtful, evocative, deeply reported, bracingly honest account--of the life of one of our most consequential modern agents of change. And what a perfect moment for this book's appearance, as the explosion of the Latino population, the implosion of the union moment, immigration policy gridlock and growing inequality have become defining issues of our American moment.” ―Kurt Andersen, author of True Believers
“This is a remarkable account of the life of Cesar Chavez and of his iconic struggle for justice for America's migrant farmworkers. Miriam Pawel provides a vivid narrative that is unmatched for the authenticity of its behind-the-scenes detail. That rarest of beasts, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez is at once an important historical document, and a compelling read.” ―Jon Lee Anderson, author of The Fall of Baghdad and Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
in interpreting the life and work of Cesar Chavez. That is, people have shied away
from criticizing him because of his enormous sacrifices and contributions to the
labor movement, to farm workers and to Latinos in general. That gave rise
to the myth of Chavez vs. the complex reality of the man himself. Miriam
Pawell, through her painstaking research, gives us a complete picture of
the man, warts and all. It's important for future generations to understand
the limitations of a charismatic figure who becomes a cult leader and a
dictator, a man who preaches nonviolence, yet who countenances violence
at the same time; a man who cultivates respect for others in his writings,
yet is systematically abusive to those under him. Pawell presents all
this, not as opinions, but as objective facts based on years of studying documents,
interviewing UFW volunteers and scouring through mountains of archives and audio
tapes. Hers is the work of a true journalist and a vigorous historian. I
highly recommend this book, and I hope it becomes a text for discussion
in Chicano and ethnic studies classes. It is both an inspiring read and
a cautionary tale. It makes us reflect on the nature of true leadership.
Hagiography this is not. Pawel is a persistent, detail-oriented journalist and The Crusades of Cesar Chavez has raised the bar for all future tellings of his story and the story of the rise and fall of the United Farm Workers.
For those schooled on textbook versions of the life of Cesar Chavez this is a disturbing nevertheless instructive read. In the past decade we have learned that Chavez was not as respected inside the Union as he was without. The farmworker movement could not have started without him, but it often succeeded in spite of him. He could be dictatorial, deceptive, and sometimes abusive. His fear, his paranoia, and the rigor of his idealism almost killed the movement he inspired. One of the major counterpoints of Pawel’s presentation is the increasing contrast between Chavez as public icon and Chavez as private neurotic.
Chavez is not a sympathetic character in this book and that is perhaps both a strength and a weakness. Pawel’s extensive use of UFW board meeting minutes and tape recording transcripts of those meetings creates a strong organizational lens. This contributes to accuracy but also keeps Chavez at a distance. We are constantly examining a complicated man solely through the eyes of others. We hear only a little of Chavez’s private voice, his private thoughts. His Catholic faith remains in the background. His commitment to nonviolence barely examined. It is as if we can sense Chavez’s own inner loneliness by the inability of his best biographer to get closer to him. The reader remains an observer of Chavez, but gets little assistance in seeing the world through his eyes.
Pawel asserts that “whether nonviolence was a core belief, a tactic, or both, Chavez used the doctrine to great advantage.” Nonviolence served Chavez and the UFW by assuring wealthy supporters that they were not supporting revolution; but Chavez wanted revolution.
Chavez wanted a true poor people’s movement - something that united “the spirit of Zapata and the tactics of Martin Luther King.” He wanted a movement but only established a union. This was enough for those whom he fought for. They were satisfied with better wages and a step up the social ladder. Chavez wanted more. He wanted a nonviolent army living out the same level of commitment and unrelenting self-sacrifice that he tried to embody.
Striving for sainthood through extreme self-discipline may have become a way to baptize his neuroses; a laudable attempt to harness the energy of an unbalanced life. But what Chavez never found and could never form was an interdependent community that could speak truth into his life, support his strengths, and confront his excesses. In Pawel’s narrative we see family, co-workers, disciples, public adulation, and international acclaim. We do not see friendship.
Chavez inspires us. We admire his ideals and dedication. We feel sorry for his loneliness, fear, and mistrust. Pawel’s biography tells a life of Shakespearean dimensions. A tragedy in the telling. A mystery in the living.