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
Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman Paperback
|New from||Used from|
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
About the Author
CATHY WILKERSON was active in the civil rights movement, Students for a Democratic Society, and the Weathermen. In 1970, she was one of two women to survive an explosion in the basement of her family’s townhouse that killed three Weathermen, forcing the group underground. For the past twenty years she has worked as a mathematics educator in New York City schools. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
One of the things that sets Ms. Wilkerson's book apart from the rest of the radical memoirs is the fact that, unlike many other sixties icons who got book deals, Wilkerson waited until she grew up and became a parent up to write about her post-adolescence. Thus giving her a grander perspective on her politics and the actions of her cohorts and the movement in general.
I would have liked a bit more about her later life and how she had to rationalize to her child about her radical choices. The end felt rushed, for that I deduct a star, but I'm nit-picking. This is a book of historical significance, well written and one that should be read by all who study the Sixties and the New Left.
It is most of the way through the book when we get to the beginnings of Weatherman. Prior to that, Wilkerson describes successfully working for a congressman, organizing students in D.C. and elsewhere, publishing the SDS paper and meeting Vietnamese officials on a trip that supposed to end in Hanoi but couldn't due to increased U.S. bombing. It is clear that Wilkerson, at least as she looks back now, is frustrated by the lack of a plan. After rushing the steps of the Pentagon with SDS and others, she asks, "What good were we doing sitting out here, chanting against those impenetrable stone walls? We were hippies, students, and angry young people without a strategy." Later, as Weatherman leadership restricts information and membership in the newly organized, cultish collectives, Wilkerson is frustrated by the fact that "...Weatherman, for all its eloquent economic and political analysis, didn't have much of a strategy for moving beyond the immediate actions."
Wilkerson is among the first to go underground as she and the other survivor climb out of the burning rubble of her father's townhouse after the explosion. Unable to go out into the public for security reasons and depressed over the loss of her comrades and her lover, she spends more than a few years in relative isolation, close enough to the leadership of the Weather Underground to occasionally assist and to be protected but outside the top circle and left out of the loop.
This recounting almost totally lacks the intrigue and voyeurism of other accounts by the leaders of the Weather Underground. Wilkerson writes openly about the decisions that were made, the struggles that she and others faced, and the war and other events of the day that led them to take the steps they took. She seems never to be comfortable with the cult-like, controlled atmosphere of the collectives. This telling of the Weather Underground story from the perspective of a member who was there for everything (for longer than most of the eventual leaders) but remained outside the inner circle, takes all of the romance out of the story. This provides a good counterpoint to the video documentaries and other published books.
Wilkerson remains proud of doing the best that she could find to do based on what she believed about the ongoing injustices. Even the townhouse explosion, she says, finally allowed "the intensity of [their] anger" to be "heard throughout the country" (it also provided focus for the organization and drastically improved their strategy in the future). In the end, she wouldn't have stood idly by, stating that while she did not, in the book, shy "away from exploring the weaknesses of SDS and the Weather Underground, then, like now, the gravest mistake is inaction."
Wilkerson writes an interesting narrative of her transformations from a WASPy 1950's era Swarthmore College grad into a professional activist to a street fighter, then a terrorist, a wanted fugitive, a mother, a prison inmate, and today a NYC math teacher. Wilkerson gives the most emphasis in her book to the first three, and it is an emphasis that will probably be of most interest to readers.
Wilkerson notes throughout her book that the New Left had a tendency toward bullying tactics for both organizational governance and in formulating programs of action [p.205]. This tenancy was extreme in the case of SDS in general and the Weathermen in particular. To wit: "It was a [leadership] style that embraced certainty as a primary credential for leadership." Wilkerson detects this tendency but never struggles against it and never says why, either. This is a issue I would have liked to see her address.
Another issue that Wilkerson identifies but never addresses in depth is the whole idea of SDS as an organization for the long-run. As a student-based organization SDS had the fatal flaw that being a college student is a transitory phase in most people's lives. At some point people want to stop going to classes and get on with their lives. So where does the committed student activist go then? [p.236]