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Living My Life, Vol. 1
by Emma Goldman
ISBN 0486225437 / 9780486225432 / 0-486-22543-7
Publisher Dover Publications
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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 [via]