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A Radical Line: From the Labor Movement to the Weather Underground, One Family's Century of Conscience Hardcover – October 6, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Former New York Newsday reporter Jones was only four years old when the FBI burst into his family's Bronx apartment to arrest his parents: members of the violent, left-wing Weather Underground, they had spent the 1970s hiding from federal authorities. In fact, Jones recounts in his debut book, they had fallen in love while staying at the same safe house in the Catskills. Eleanor had become radicalized in 1968 while a law student at Columbia University; Jeff helped Dr. Timothy Leary, the LSD guru, escape from prison. Their radical roots went deep, as this engaging family history reveals. Both of Jones's maternal grandparents were Communist Party members; his grandfather pled the Fifth Amendment when House Committee on Un-American Activities grilled him in the 1950s. Jones's paternal grandfather had spent WWII in an army work camp as a conscientious objector. Jones effectively elucidates the personal dramas, often drawing on FBI files for background info. In giving his parents' story such completeness, however, he offers little hint of how fully their values were passed on to his own generation, giving the book's ending a somewhat abrupt feel. Strictly speaking, Jones's parents were in league with terrorists, but he infuses their politics with a crucial humanity that makes their path a little more understandable, perhaps even sympathetic.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Jones, a journalist, spent the early years of his life living under an alias while his parents were fugitives from the FBI, sought for their involvement in the Weather Underground. In this absorbing memoir of his radical family heritage, Jones offers a look at nearly a century of progressive political movements in the U.S. He traces grandparents on both sides who participated in May Day demonstrations, joined early labor unions and the Communist Party, and lived lives of constant government surveillance, truncated personal aspirations, and eventual disillusionment. Continuing the radical tradition, his parents progressed from antiwar demonstrations and campus protests to the Days of Rage and the Weather Underground. Tracing his family's political idealism--and a family life filled with the usual joys and tragedies--Jones provides a thoughtful and compelling portrait of radical politics as lived by one family and as experienced by the nation as a whole. This is part family memoir and part historical record of the metamorphosis of radical movements in America. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (October 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743250273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743250276
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,839,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read "A Radical Line" in a single weekend and it really was as advertised - a crash course in American protest movements. My parents lived through the sixties and they have bored me for years with stories from "back in the day". Reading this book - written by someone in my generation - showed me why that ancient history is still important today - maybe more than ever. The author tells the story through the people in his family, and when he describes the anger his parents felt because of American atrocities in Vietnam, it reminds me of the way I talk to my friends about the war in Iraq.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wry, smart book. Jones cleaves historical and personal stories into an astonishing narrative -- one that spans a century of American power and protest. That he does so at all is impressive; that he does so without any navel-gazing self indulgence is a miraculous breath of fresh memoir air. Jones' book is a stark and often critical look at his own family line, as well as a brilliant contextualization of everything from moral outrage and political movements to sex, drugs and car chases.
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Format: Hardcover
It is quite a feat to tackle writing a book about your parents and grandparents without succumbing to sentimentality, or in some people's case, bitterness. Thai Jones succeeds in keeping an even-handed, slightly amused tone to his family story, and some family it is. His parents, Jeff Jones and Eleanor Raskin, were two members of the Weather Underground, and the author was himself born on the run, so to speak. His first memory is of the FBI hauling his parents away when they were finally busted and he was age four. I don't envy him that memory.

And prior to Jeff and Eleanor were their respective parents, radicals of the Old Left, with their own strong opinions, which didn't necessarily match up with those of their offspring. That inherent tension gives the story some of its punch.

Of course, the most dramatic part of the book is the tromp through the New Left, SDS, and Weatherman (later, the Weather Underground). Jones draws on family memories, other participants, and reliable sources, but there may not be a whole lot new here for anyone who has read other memoirs such as Bill Ayers' or seen the Weather Underground documentary. Still, he provides yet another perspective which helps us triangulate on that over-heated era.

My main cavel about the book is its scattershot time-line, which bounces back and forth between different family members and different years. No doubt, some of this is done for dramatic effect, but it undercuts one's ability to get a clear picture of the linear order of events. And the confusion is made worse by Jones' almost exclusive use of first names for the main family members. A little journalistic insertion of last names, now and then, might have kept me better on track.
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Format: Hardcover
This was a book that once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down! It starts out with a BANG and grabs the attention of the reader, filling you with a feeling as if you were there while it was happening.

While many people won't tell any family history that isn't glorious, this author and his family go out on a limb and tell it all, from A-Z. I know these people personally and this book is a tribute to their lives -- whether or not you like what they say; IT'S THE TRUTH!!

For once we have a book written by those who were there, not some interpretation of what happened, but what ACTUALLY HAPPENED. The truth is out.

Good job Thai, you deserve a great deal of credit.
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Format: Hardcover
Couldn't put this book down. The author details the history of several generations of his family and their relationship with revolutionary politics. The backdrop of the lives of these family members becomes increasingly intertwined with American history from anarchism through the Weather Underground as the story approaches the present. And just as the author seems to be asking himself important, "life" questions, so does the book prompt the reader to do the same of him or herself. Excellent read.
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