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On May 2 1973 Black Panther Assata Shakur aka JoAnne Chesimard lay in a hospital close to death handcuffed to her bed while local state and federal police attempted to uestion her about the shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike that had claimed the life of a white state trooper Long a target of J Edgar Hoover's campaign to defame infiltrate and criminalize Black nationalist organizations and their leaders Shakur was incarcerated for four years prior to her conviction on flimsy evidence in 1977 as an accomplice to murderThis intensely personal and political autobiography belies the fearsome image of JoAnne Chesimard long projected by the media and the state With wit and candor Assata Shakur recounts the experiences that led her to a life of activism and portrays the strengths weaknesses and eventual demise of Black and White revolutionary groups at the hand of government officials The result is a signal contribution to the literature about growing up Black in America that has already taken its place alongside The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the works of Maya AngelouTwo years after her conviction Assata Shakur escaped from prison She was given political asylum by Cuba where she now resides

10 thoughts on “Assata An Autobiography

  1. says:

    This was a brilliant autobiography about an amazing and resilient woman I’ve heard Assata Shakur’s name several times over the years but I knew next to nothing about her It was only when earlier on this year her name resurfaced when she became the only woman on the FBI’s most wanted list that I decided to read the book to learn what all the brouhaha was aboutThis is one of the most riveting books I have ever read I experienced so many emotions when reading this book For the first part of the book the main emotion was disgust and shock firstly at the police brutality Assata experienced it was very hard to read some of the graphic scenes and also at the American judicial system which was clearly racist The book tells two stories concurrently; the chapters about Assata’s court case for supposedly murdering a state trooper and subseuent escape from prison were nicely interspersed with her story of her growing up until she became a member of the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army Her writing has her genuine and authentic voice and her story is enthralling She has such a brilliant sense of humour The whole book was very readable and informative “I keep staring at him Nobody could look that corny He’s like a ghost from the past I’m convinced he doesn’t know it’s 1973” Assata talking about the prosecutor at her trial “For the most part we receive fragments of unrelated knowledge and our education follows no logical format or pattern It is exactly this kind of education that produces people who don’t have the ability to think for themselves and who are easily manipulated” “The almighty dollar is King; those who have the most money control the country and through campaign contributions buy and sell presidents congressmen and judges the ones who pass the laws and enforce the laws that benefit their benefactors” One thing that impressed me about Assata were her great points of observation about poor education slavery and racism and the evils of capitalism She is a great advocate for AfricanAfrican American culture and spends some time talking about how Eurocentrism is one of the main reasons why black music art and literature is unfortunately often considered “primitive” She believes that what’s important in life is having personal dignity and she exhorts people of the African diaspora to be proud of their heritage The book made me uestion why the world is seemingly pushing for homogeneity when cultural diversity is a lot interestingI was curious about some things for example Assata’s insistence of spelling America and court with k’s instead of c’s and her haphazard capitalizing or lack thereof of the letter “I” Was she trying to rebel? I’m not sure I also wish she had included how she had escaped from prison I guess the reasons why she didn’t are obvious but a uick google search told me how it was achieved so it’s not exactly top secretI feel regardless of whether one feels Assata was guilty or innocent personally I don’t understand why she was put on the FBI list after 40 years everyone should read this book Yes race is a huge part of it but capitalism is also talked about a lot and I think her insights into the system are very useful and enlightening Culture – Assata ShakurI must confess that waltzesdo not move meI have no sympathyfor symphoniesI guess I hummed the Bluestoo earlyand spent too many midnightsout wailing to the rain

  2. says:

    Fast moving and full of suspense Assata An Autobiography charts the development of the revolutionary’s political consciousness and personal ethics Shakur alternates across chapters between recounting her childhood and adolescence and dramatizing the many court cases she faced as an adult on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence In the autobiography’s second half the author discusses her involvement in the radical social movements of the late sixties and seventies and she details what organizational practices she believes are necessary for political revolution Shakur’s vision for a liberated future is expansive and imaginative and she writes candidly about traumatic memories and gross abuses of state power As full of pain as the autobiography is Shakur’s sharp wit and terse style make it a compelling and uick read

  3. says:

    i believe in livingBy Assata Shakuri believe in livingi believe in the spectrumof Beta days and Gamma peoplei believe in sunshineIn windmills and waterfallstricycles and rocking chairs;And i believe that seeds grow into sproutsAnd sprouts grow into treesi believe in the magic of the handsAnd in the wisdom of the eyesi believe in rain and tearsAnd in the blood of infinityi believe in lifeAnd i have seen the death parademarch through the torso of the earthsculpting mud bodies in its pathi have seen the destruction of the daylightand seen bloodthirsty maggotsprayed to and salutedi have seen the kind become the blindand the blind become the bindin one easy lessoni have walked on cut grassi have eaten crow and blunder breadand breathed the stench of indifferencei have been locked by the lawlessHandcuffed by the hatersGagged by the greedyAnd if i know anything at allit's that a wall is just a walland nothing at allIt can be broken downi believe in livingi believe in birthi believe in the sweat of loveand in the fire of truthAnd i believe that a lost shipsteered by tired seasick sailorscan still be guided home to port

  4. says:

    A powerful autobiography by a courageous wise and funny woman In Assata Assata Shakur details her coming of age as a black woman in the United States her court case for allegedly killing a state trooper based on flimsy evidence and her involvement in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation movement I most loved this book for Assata’s many incisive profound points about slavery and racism the perils of capitalism and how Eurocentrism and the glorification of whiteness oppress black people in a multitude of ways Here’s a uote about education that I’m pretty sure I said “omg iconic” aloud when I first read it about the failure of American education to help marginalized people unlearn oppression “The schools we go to are reflections of the society that created them Nobody is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them Nobody is going to teach you your true history teach you your true heroes if they know that that knowledge will help set you free Schools in amerika are interested in brainwashing people with amerikanism giving them a little bit of education and training them in skills needed to fill the positions the capitalist system reuires As long as we expect amerika’s schools to educate us we will remain ignorant”I recommend this book for anyone who’s interested in reading about the life of a radical inspiring woman Assata demonstrated great strength and perseverance through so many situations she should not have had to In this autobiography she shares both those experiences as well as underlying truths about our oppressive white supremacist society that contributed to those experiences happening in the first place While the structure in the first half of the book did not uite click with me with the time skips toward the middle and the end of the book I felt mesmerized I’ll end this review with another uote about the marginalization of Black people in American and the importance of racial consciousness “Every day out in the street now I remind myself that Black people in amerika are oppressed It’s necessary that I do that People get used to anything The less you think about your oppression the your tolerance for it grows After a while people just think oppression is the normal state of things But to become free you have to be acutely aware of being a slave”

  5. says:

    Assata Shakur's conviction in a joke of a trial for a murder she clearly did not commit has not been reversed She escaped from prison and she lives in Cuba still a fugitive The story of how the hell this outrage came about and above all persists is necessary because it outlines so lucidly how the white supremacist capitalist state actively opposes the struggles for liberation and justice and simply peaceful survival of African American people at all costs whatever politicians sayAside from what the trial demonstrates though Assata's story is precious to me because she's an extraordinary woman so intelligent clear sighted and candid and such a fine raconteur alternating chapters on her intriguing early life with the horrific account of her incarceration so that I was constantly perched on the edge of my seat She also seasons both with her blazingly beautiful poetry Her stormy temper huge capacity for love and gift for articulating oppression all increase her vulnerability in the hostile circumstances but also her story's appeal and my admiration for herThere's also a fascinating flavour here of the strands of Black Power movement and mood in Black USian communities in the late 60s and early 70s The political climate was extremely hostile and the police behaved lawlessly but Assata's narrative gives the impression of loosely united activism and awakening resistance among a wider population socialised into believing white supremacist memes about blackness Her own growing oppositional knowledge combined with tenacity and confidence make her a superb organiser and speaker but her radical activities consist principally of running Black Panther breakfasts for kids and teaching remedial maths and literacyThis is an autobiography of someone whose very self respect is outlawed who is denied recognition as a woman she was repeatedly incarcerated in male prisons who has been uite absurdly painted as a violent extremist by a media evidently in thrall to state racism For Assata singled out to be made a cautionary example the personal is exhaustingly tortuously politicalAt the end of the book she reflects on racial dynamics in Cuba an environment by no means utopian but certainly full of love and hopeI mean no disrespect by using the author's first name I just love this chosen name meaning 'she who struggles'

  6. says:

    This was one of the first Goodreads recommendation I ever received by goodreads recommendation I mean the computer generated algorithm based on the books that I entered onto my profile I'm not sure which books prompted the recommendation but it has proven to be spot on I had heard of Assata Shakur only in terms that she was the FBI's most wanted woman alive After reading this autobiography I still don't know why On it's face this would seem to be the story of a life of a young black female revolutionary in the 70s Yes that would be the judge a book by its cover analysis But of course that's not what this is about at all This is a book about the misuse and abuse of power of the State State here being the Federal and State Governments What was most striking to me about the autobiography was the vicious police brutality and the blatant disregard for due process of law her civil rights and what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment I read about how huge the machinaries of government are and what can happen when it turns its full force against one person or a small group of people The book is filled with facts about her incarceration and trials There seemed to be uite a desire to convict without real due process of law The judge in New Jersey was portrayed as racist singlehandedly rigged the trial and the system though strangely enough she was exonerated anyways thought the brilliance of her lawyers among which was the famous William Kunstler Per Assasta they did things like make her take photographs in a wig that looked a lot like the photo of bank robbers and then say indisputably that she was present They incarcerated her in a men's prison in solitary confinement for months at a time without much mental stimulation Never let her out for exercise She was shot in the abdomen and arm The lack of adeuate medical treatment threatened paralysis She had to sue for physical therapy The poor medical attention for her during her pregnancy had the potential of promoting a miscarriage with the implication that it seemed to be preferable to the State Kangaroo courts and cruel and unusual punishments The list goes on In short political persecutionWhat was also apparent was that Shakur was very intelligent and insightful civil rights activist feminist a bit of a philosopher and a poet The book came across as particularly prescient in the age of government overreach and oversight the #metoo movement the civil rights and lack their of for certain people voter supression and it roll in the perversion of the criminal justice system and the violent spread of capitalism and it's conflation with democracy uick uiz I'm going to provide a few uotes from the book and you tell me what decade we are discussing Back then when i was growing up boys gang banging or gang raping a girl was a pretty common thing They called it pulling a train It didn’t happen to any particular kind of girl It happened to girls who were at the wrong place at the wrong time While politicians take free trips around the world those same politicians cut back food stamps for the poor While politicians increase their salaries millions of people are being laid off This city is on the brink of bankruptcy and yet hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on this trial I do not understand a government so willing to spend millions of dollars on arms to explore outer space even the planet Jupiter and at the same time close down day care centers and fire stations But one percent of the people in this country control seventy percent of the wealth And it is that one percent the heads of large corporations who control the policies of the news media and determine what you and i hear on radio read in the newspapers see on television It is important for us to think about where the media gets its information Actually I think it's something like 87% now but The panel was selected from the voting rolls and since candidates running for office seldom represent the interests of Black and poor people Blacks and the poor don’t vote But failing to vote means they don’t sit on juries The rich have always used racism to maintain power To hate someone to discriminate against them and to attack them because of their racial characteristics is one of the most primitive reactionary ignorant ways of thinking that exists It seems like a strange twist of fate that I was reading this book simultaneously with Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine Seriously they were a strangely compatible mix Shakur outlined and punctuated a lot of Klein's points of view almost 2 decades earlier Shakur was fervent advocate for civil rights for all people She recognized that a prime motivation for oppression wasn't just the basic hatred of the other it was the much powerful plain old greed Those who believe that the president or the vice president and the congress and the supreme kourt run this country are sadly mistaken The almighty dollar is king; those who have the most money control the country and through campaign contributions buy and sell presidents congressmen and judges the ones who pass the laws and enforce the laws that benefit their benefactors Anybody heard of the new tax law? Shakur also talked about things as they related to foreign policy Then he defined the us government’s role that it was fighting for money to defend the interests of us corporations and to establish military bases I didn’t know whether to believe him or not I had never heard of such a thing “What about democracy?” i asked him “Don’t you believe in democracy?” Yes he said but the government the us was supporting was not a democracy but a bloodthirsty dictatorship Understand that we are not talking about Turkey Saudi Arabia or Russia or the Philippines We're talking about Vietnam in this uoteWhat the book doesn't explain is why? Why her? Per Shakur she was never a leader in the Black Panther Party or the Black Liberation Army BLA Shakur had many problems with the leaders of both organizations mostly related to the sexismmisogyny and a lack of strategic focus Throughout the book we can see that Shakur has huge issues with the US form of government But her role according to her is as a participant She was a foot soldier who had some strategic vision but revealed no indication as to why she should be on anyone's radar Why was the government so after her? Her autobiography would have us believe that just by being a member of the BLA she was branded as a terrorist and treated as such She would have us believe that this was all done basically because she was black female and powerless How did she escape from Federal custody? Wikipedia somewhat filled me in She was suspected of being the leader of the BLA cell and responsible for several bank armed robberies BLA broke her out of prison and hid her for several years before she received political asylum in Cuba Possible of course and maybe even probable but not entirely convincing I suspect the truth is somewhere in between But living in 2018 some 30 years after the book was written and living in an age with the attempted demonizing of the Black Lives Matter movement and the attempt to underplay the overwhelming police brutality and abuse of power I find her to be mostly credible with rather obvious probably critical omissions in the book Overall I found the book to be uite fascinating and an excellent read I also enjoyed the intertwining poems with the chapters in the book 4 StarsRead on kindle

  7. says:

    The issue with deriving the majority of knowledge I deem of worth from Tumblr is the all too often reactionary invalidation coupled with my intake While I acknowledge that all my development via moral academic and raison d'être channels can be invariable traced back to some post or another and that the only thing of value I've wrested from a college education thus far was a voracious appetite for establishing my own systems of academic credibility my gut reaction is still pull apart the Internet and trust in the book I'm getting better but until I can fully shake off the refuse of a previous generation's standards of evaluation works like these that put those posts down on paper are a giftAssata Shakur is alive It doesn't take much time to say but the context of connection between the revolutionary days before my time and my now of tanks in Ferguson and parallels between the Berlin Wall and the Palestine Israel barriers is invaluable Not only is she living proof of how far the United States needs to go before I'll even begin to contemplate an inkling of trust here in this autobiography she is candid she is funny she is intelligent and brave and strong beyond belief While I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X there is a difference between reading the words of a dead man and those of a living woman both on socially constructed and biologically factual constructed grounds Simply put as a woman I found to relate to and connections such as these in any intersectional social justice context are worth the worldThe most obvious examples of this are biological Assata Shakur saved herself from a gang rape by affluent boys at the age of thirteen by threatening to tear apart the main perpetrator's house and get him in trouble with his parents She also became pregnant and gave birth while incarcerated during her many trials and wrote about the experience with such beautiful insight into both the reality of her situation and the strength of her hope for the future that I recommend it to all Her being a black woman also worked in implicit ways by deconstructing the cult of masculinity often coupled to civil rights movements Everywhere in her autobiography is emphasis on solidarity love and commitment to any and all in the mutual struggle something every sociopolitical tract concerning human rights could learn fromIn addition to detailing her life and development of social consciousness Shakur gives some very important points of advice on how to engage in social justice measures My first favorite of these was her statement that revolutionaries need to constantly engage with the people as those on the sidelines who are not informed by the revolutionaries will always be indoctrinated by the white washing school and the fear mongering state Seeing as how I keep track of events in Ferguson via Twitter and Tumblr due to the distortions of media blackouts I can attest to this in full Another favorite was her decrying of social justice people fixing things for others when the right way of supporting those in different situations is to be receptive to their ideas have faith in their abilities and offer aid only when asked Patriarchal methods of teacher and student will not tear down the patriarchy so long as the teacher is always the teacher and the student is always the studentI did find it odd that after all this great material that Shakur went back and emphasized how the revolutionary struggle must be scientific in order to avoid emotional compromise in other words emphasizing the very objectivity preached by every tendril of the patriarchy After some reflection my thoughts are that this was a condemnation of the suicidal violence mentality she encountered during her time in the Black Panther Party It's the only way that makes sense to me as what I love about Shakur is her constant promotion of love of communication of a fundamental emotional grounding of sociopolitical thought that is the antithesis of the ever abusive and ever splintering patriarchy If I ever get the chance to meet her I'll have to ask her about itThis book is also chock full of historical tidbits you'll never find in any classroom Along with all the names and college movements I'll have to look into in the future this was the first time I had ever heard of the Occupation of Alcatraz Good stuff

  8. says:

    Wow Assata Shakur After reading this book I only feel love for a person who even within the confines of ink and paper clearly has so much life and energy brimming from within her What this woman handled in her time put me in a similar frame of mind as to when I read A Lightless Sky; one of sheer gratitudeIt seems oddly coincidental that I would read Franz Kafkas The Trial just before coming to understand the farce that was Assastas trial Her struggles that she overcame made me shudder with sheer awe at timesTo all my goodreads friends do yourself a favour and pick this up Her name deserves to live forever

  9. says:

    This book turned into a dnf for me I wanted to love this book soooooo bad I pushed myself as far as I could to read until the end however I just couldn't While I respect Assata and all that she did for the African American race I was unimpressed by her memoirWhen it comes to memoirs or books based on individuals coming of age I like to read these books to figure out what the protagonist or subject of the book learned from everything that happened to himher For the majority of Assata's story there seemed to be a wall up between her and her audience I found this to be especially true in terms of the chapters that Assata wrote about her childhood In these chapters I felt a strong urge to uestion the validity of certain events based on how Assata wrote them using such a blasé tone about different events like how she freuently ran away from home and lived on her own for long periods of time as a child Even though these events may have happened just as she wrote them the tone in which she wrote each event forced me to take her verbal recaps with a grain of salt Further I felt as if her misspelling of America and the word I were too forced In each instance where she did this it struck me as a contrived writing tick that may have been meant to mean something but never really got fully explained to the reader forcing this habit to become just another thing for her audience to guess at Looking at other people's interpretation of Assata's autobiography I would speculate that the habit of misspelling America's name was meant to show disrespect or hatred for America however I'm still unsure of the actual meaning behind thisOverall I felt dissatisfied with this book Assata's story came highly recommended from people gushing over it left and right yet I felt as if Assata's delivery of her life's story lacked depth I do not dispute that Assata has than enough to be angry about in her life but the manner in which she portrays her feelings in the book don't really show any growth from her first being arrested up to the point I read to which was about 125 pages where she's like 13 living on her own with a drag ueen as a mentor Nonetheless I can attest to learning a good deal about the American justice system from her autobiography I would recommend this book to someone who is an avid history buff African African Literature lover or extremely fond of feminist narratives

  10. says:

    i don't think i really need to explain that this book is awesome it is the autobiography of assata shakur who was in the black panther party eventually arrested charged with murder she made a baby with a fellow defendant during the trial gave birth while shackled to a gurney some comrades busted her out of prison she escaped to cuba where she lives to this day this book covers her childhood growing up female black becoming aware of racism sexism the strong female role models she had in her life in the form of her mother her aunt who went on to be assata's lawyer during her black panther days she writes about joining the black panther party daily life within the party including some of the stuff she didn't like she writes about her trial getting pregnant being pregnant giving birth in jail etc it's a pretty damn interesting story assata is a really like able narrator because she's so brassy no bullshit maybe possibly i could have lived with the occasional poems but hey you can't win 'em all this book is an excellent memoir antidote to a lot of the dude penned black panther books which are predictably dudely