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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
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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.
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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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.
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.
When all is said and done, I couldn't shake the feeling, from Jones' account, that both of his parents had a screw loose in the judgment department. The author's mother succumbs to the more revolutionary than thou guilt-tripping of the Weatherpersons, and leaves her first husband and abandons her law degree. At the time, I'm sure, it seemed like the right thing to do, but when you get right down to it, she flipped and joined a cult.
Jones' father, one of the most macho gun-wavers of the Weatherman leadership, can't keep from buying stand-out-in-a-crowd used cars, all while living "underground" and trying to remain inconspicuous, of course. This recklessness is topped off by his growing dope plants on an apartment fire escape in Hoboken, apparently to make a little cash while on the lam. This, needless to say, catches the eyes of the authorities and they're on the run again.
All in all, A Radical Line is an entertaining read. Slight flaws and family quirks aside, it provides a compelling portrait of two and a half generations of rebels.