- Paperback: 503 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications; Reprint edition (June 1, 1970)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0486225437
- ISBN-13: 978-0486225432
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 30 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #449,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Living My Life, Vol. 1 Paperback – June 1, 1970
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Forget all those New Left memoirs: for readers who want to know what it is to be a revolutionary in America, this is the book to read. At the turn of the 20th century, Emma Goldman (1869-1940) was probably the most hated woman in her adopted country. (She emigrated from Russia at age 17.) It was bad enough that she was an anarchist, accused of complicity in the 1901 assassination of President McKinley. But her vehement espousal of women's rights--including birth control--really enraged upright citizens. Goldman's marvelously militant autobiography gives ample evidence of her gift for bearing a grudge and inability to mince words--she decries fellow leftists at least as often as the bourgeoisie, especially after she is deported to the Soviet Union in 1919 and discovers that the Bolshevik Revolution is not what she hoped for. But Goldman's blazing honesty and unflinching commitment to unpopular causes make her a larger-than-life heroine. She does display the occasional human weakness, including a lengthy romance with a man whose infidelities torment this advocate of free love, but they're less interesting than her heroic challenge to America to live up to its ideals. Whether or not she was literally a bomb thrower remains a matter of debate. For posterity, her words are incendiary enough. --Wendy Smith
About the Author
Emma Goldman (1869 – 1940) was an anarchist known for her political activism, writing and speeches. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. Born in Kovno in the Russian Empire (now Kaunas in Lithuania), Goldman emigrated to the US in 1885 and lived in New York City, where she joined the burgeoning anarchist movement. Attracted to anarchism after the Haymarket affair, Goldman became a writer and a renowned lecturer on anarchist philosophy, women's rights, and social issues, attracting crowds of thousands. She and anarchist writer Alexander Berkman, her lover and lifelong friend, planned to assassinate Henry Clay Frick as an act of propaganda of the deed. Though Frick survived the attempt on his life, Berkman was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison. Goldman was imprisoned several times in the years that followed, for "inciting to riot" and illegally distributing information about birth control. In 1906, Goldman founded the anarchist journal Mother Earth. In 1917, Goldman and Berkman were sentenced to two years in jail for conspiring to "induce persons not to register" for the newly instated draft. After their release from prison, they were arrested—along with hundreds of others—and deported to Russia. Initially supportive of that country's Bolshevik revolution, Goldman quickly voiced her opposition to the Soviet use of violence and the repression of independent voices. In 1923, she wrote a book about her experiences, My Disillusionment in Russia. While living in England, Canada, and France, she wrote an autobiography called Living My Life. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, she traveled to Spain to support the anarchist revolution there. She died in Toronto on May 14, 1940. During her life, Goldman was lionized as a free-thinking "rebel woman" by admirers, and derided by critics as an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent revolution. Her writing and lectures spanned a wide variety of issues, including prisons, atheism, freedom of speech, militarism, capitalism, marriage, free love, and homosexuality. Although she distanced herself from first-wave feminism and its efforts toward women's suffrage, she developed new ways of incorporating gender politics into anarchism. After decades of obscurity, Goldman's iconic status was revived in the 1970s, when feminist and anarchist scholars rekindled popular interest in her life. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
In Vol. 1 E. G. shares her development into the most notorious anarchist agitator in the U. S. and the myriad struggles of which she is a part. The reader obtains a deeper understanding of the struggle between workers and big business, the different radical groups that competed / cooperated with each other, and the subsequent persecution of radicals due to their activities. Vol. 2 includes the imprisonment of E. G. and her friend Sasha Berkman as oppontents of WWI followed by their deportations to Russia. Of particular historical interest is their experiences of the contradictions of the Bolshevik government, which they had previously defended. About 150 pages deal with their time in Russia--at first trying to be useful to the Revolution, then experiencing increasing disillusionment with its authoritarianism. This section includes personal accounts of the Kronstadt Rebellion and the death of Peter Kropotkin.
E. G. is one of the most beautiful and dynamic personalities of the 20th century, and her life is packed with enough history and adventure that it necessitates two volumes of autobiography. Combined they weigh in at 1000 pages, and honestly she probably could have trimmed it down to 600-700 without losing the heart of the material. On the other hand, it is really impossible to get too much of Emma Goldman.
Nevertheless, this eyewitness account of American and Russian history, ought not to be trivially dismissed. Emma fought for things we have taken for granted in modern life, such as birth-control and the eight-hour work day; she went to jail in the struggle to obtain these for us. This book explains how she lived her commitment to individual liberty, choosing who she would love, advocating revolution, and harrassing those of her "allies" who compromised on these principles.
Perhaps the most interesting portion of the book is her years in Russia. Here she describes arriving at the "Promised Land" of the peoples' revolution and how that mutated into a sense of disillusionment and horror at what she saw as the betrayal of that revolution by the "dictatorship of the proletariat."
Her writing style is nothing exceptional, but the story she weaves from the material of her life is nothing short of fascinating. Another reviewer suggested taking a break between volumes--I couldn't! I had to know what happened next.
Although there are a lot of pages to wade through, I will give this book as a gift to the young women in my life. I believe that Emma can serve as a role model for living one's own life, not living out the expectations of friends, family, or society. In a dysfunctional world, we have too few people who model this.
Emma gets three stars for writing style, but the powerful and plentiful content bring the rating up to five stars. Not to be missed.
(If you'd like to discuss this book or review, click on the "about me" link above & drop me an email. Thanks!)
Those who care for improving human conditions might enjoy learning about the struggles from 100 years ago for
things we take for granted now.