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Assata: An Autobiography

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4.47  ·  Rating Details ·  10,034 Ratings  ·  545 Reviews
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 question 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 Blac ...more
Paperback, 274 pages
Published November 1st 1999 by Chicago Review Press (first published 1987)
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Rowena
Jun 27, 2012 Rowena rated it it was amazing
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 about.

This 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 th
...more
beauregard
Feb 28, 2008 beauregard rated it it was amazing
i believe in living.
By Assata Shakur

i believe in living.
i believe in the spectrum
of Beta days and Gamma people.
i believe in sunshine.
In windmills and waterfalls,
tricycles and rocking chairs;
And i believe that seeds grow into sprouts.
And sprouts grow into trees.
i believe in the magic of the hands.
And in the wisdom of the eyes.
i believe in rain and tears.
And in the blood of infinity.

i believe in life.
And i have seen the death parade
march through the torso of the earth,
sculpting mud bodies in its p
...more
Aubrey
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 Int ...more
Zanna
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 say.

Aside from
...more
Calvin
Sep 18, 2011 Calvin rated it it was amazing
on how slavery is legal in the u.s. p.64-5
The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution says:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Well, that explained a lot of things. That explained why jails and prisons all over the country are filled to the brim with Black and Third World people, why so many Black people can't find a job on
...more
Ciara
Oct 10, 2008 Ciara rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: feminists, black panther historians, people who want a good memoir
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 ...more
Adira
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 memoir.

When 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 him/her. For the majority of Assata's s
...more
Carrie
May 13, 2013 Carrie rated it it was amazing
Quickly moved from the middle to the top of my to-read list with the surprising and disturbing addition of her name to the FBI’s “Most-Wanted Terrorists” list earlier this month. The short version of her story is that she was a former Black Panther and BLA member, convicted of murdering a New Jersey state trooper under highly dubious circumstances. She was eventually broken out of prison and, later, fled to Cuba, where she was granted asylum and continues to live today. The long version is descr ...more
dianne
Mar 19, 2015 dianne rated it it was amazing
How did she survive? She spent YEARS in solitary confinement, housed in conditions that were legally judged to be cruel and inhumane. Repeatedly indicted for felonies she was not guilty of, accusations that were ridiculous. Something like 6 times (before she was found guilty in a kangaroo kourt) she had been acquitted, and had cases thrown out - because the fake story they cooked up was too stupid for any jury to fall for - even the racist, all white ones. But with those small “victories” went p ...more
Will
I was just thinking about this book, and I realized that it opened my eyes to much of the daily injustices that millions suffer from in my country. Looking back, because I read this right after moving to Baltimore and before the uprising , it contextualized the violence and anger that exploded in my adopted city. I'm eternally grateful to Assata Shakur and her challenging autobiography. (Also, I've definitely grown as a writer since this review...) – 5/25/16
____________
I bought this book months
...more
Christian
This is the compelling autobiography of one of America's great modern New Afrikan revolutionary women. It's engaging, and generally well written, although there are a few parts where the narrative stumbles due to gaps--but the author is a wanted woman and she has plenty of secrets to keep.

The chapters alternate, with the even chapters telling the story of Assata's youth and maturation, and the rest documenting her later life, beginning with the story of that infamous NJ Turnpike shootout.

Even t
...more
Shanae
Apr 24, 2010 Shanae rated it liked it
I am compelled to review this autobiography so harshly that I am afraid I might make unfounded assertions about this memoir that may be completely false, but these are all my opinions. I was thoroughly unimpressed with the autobiography and came to the conclusion that I do not know why it was written - seriously. I do not know what Shakur's contribution to the Black Panther Party (BPP) was nor do I fully understand her contribution to the Black Liberation Army. She was an absentee mother, I do n ...more
Sunny
Feb 11, 2016 Sunny rated it it was amazing
This was an incredible biography about a black lady who was part of the 60s/70s panther movement in America. She is currently the only women to be on the FBIs most wanted list. She’s the God mother of Tupac Shakur. Her world took a turn for the worse when she and some of her “revolutionary” friends were travelling in a car through a New Jersey turnpike when they were pulled over for a very minor car related violation. Within minutes some of her colleagues were dead, as was one of the cops and As ...more
Paul Gordon
Dec 24, 2007 Paul Gordon rated it really liked it
This book is both a wonderful read, and extremely thought-provoking. Although it deals with the Black Power movement in the 1970s and 1980s, it is painfully relevant to current debates over government control such as the Patriot Act. Assata Shakur was wrongfully imprisoned as part of the FBI and US government attacks on the political organizations of people of color. She offers in this book a scathing indictment of the prison system (a system which has only grown worse and more powerful), and of ...more
Lulu
Aug 27, 2015 Lulu rated it it was amazing
I love Assata's spirit and mind. This was a wonderful read. I would love to have a conversation with her over dinner.
Sara Salem
Dec 09, 2014 Sara Salem rated it it was amazing
One of the most honest and touching autobiographies I have read. You can't help but love Assata and the way she easily talks about how she feels and what she went through. Again it's shocking what the Black Liberation Army and Black Panthers went through, a history that a lot of Americans don't even seem to be aware of. The Communists and the Black Panthers, probably the two biggest threats the U.S. faced last century judging from the way they were brutally decimated.
Maya B
Great read.this was one of the books that I wanted to read and kept putting it off for years. I loved how Assata spoke of her personal life and makes the reader understand why she feels the way she does about humanity. the struggles that she speaks of 20 years ago is so relevant right now and it's very sad that after all these years we have not made much progress as a society. this book left me speechless.
Vicky
Sep 01, 2013 Vicky rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Vicky by: Jackie pushed this up my priority list
In my head I have reversed the order of the last two sentences of Assata's autobiography so that it reads: "The cowboys and bandits didn't own the world. There was no doubt about it, our people would one day be free."

I can't believe I read this over a period of 4 months. I just finished it tonight, and I attended a book club discussion for it last month when I was only around chapter 10 or so. The best thing about this story is how Assata inspires a feeling of you being able to participate in t
...more
Bryan
Dec 11, 2012 Bryan rated it it was amazing
This is perhaps so far the greatest book I've read in a long, long time. Her writing style is so subtle and nonchalant, yet so suburb. You can tell that she has a great personality, filled with intense emotions. Her words can make my heart cringe with sadness, rage with anger, or shake with laughter. Along with her general writing, it's also her poetry that lights up the darkness inside.

"Rhinocerous woman
who nobody wants
and everybody used.
They say you're crazy
cause you not crazy enough
to kneel
...more
Alysia
Feb 18, 2012 Alysia rated it really liked it
This book was an eye opener for me. I had no idea who Assata Shakur was before this book. I have heard about Angela Davis and other members of the Black Panther Party as well as the parties contributions to the communities they organized. But this was my first time hearing of her and I am so glad I read this book.
In the beginning of this book it took me a few minutes to get used to her writing style. Lower case "i" and lower cases for names and places she would never give the honor of upper cas
...more
Shakeia
Sep 04, 2014 Shakeia rated it really liked it
Thanks to not having a single thing to do at the office, I was able to sit and read this in just a few hours. Assata's strength is shown in the very beginning of the book when she details the way she was treated during and after her arrest by New Jersey state troopers. Her childhood was an interesting one, and like many of us, she came of age during her college years.

She mentions how Black people are taught to hate Black features such as "nappy hair" and wide noses and how, as kids, they used t
...more
Melodie
Jul 22, 2014 Melodie rated it it was amazing
Must read for any revolutionary. Very down-to-earth, very honest, very informative. All the things I ever look for in a book. Should be on everyone's top 10. Loved it! Learned so much!
Tiffany Tucker
Apr 10, 2015 Tiffany Tucker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So hard to rate...more here later
 Imani ♥ ☮
I wanted to add one of Assata's poems at the beginning of this review but I think it may be unnecessary (I also don't feel like getting up and retrieving the book).

I've been reading this since the end of the summer, but have had it on my bookshelves since about March or so. The cover of this book is haunting, with Assata being among other things, a beautiful revolutionary. I do believe this has been one of the best autobios I've ever read, filing it along with Alex Haley's Malcolm X (but better
...more
Lumumba Shakur
This is the autobiography of one of the most influential women in the Black Power Movement. Though Elaine Cleaver and Angela Davis are famous due to their outspoken natures and media attention they were able to garner as feminine spokespersons of the movement, Assata Shakur was a grassroots leader in New York who stayed out of the limelight - until the FBI attempted to portray the Black Panther Party as a criminal organization and the emergence of the Black Liberation Army. Being an active membe ...more
Alison
Nov 12, 2016 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected this to be politically engaging, and it was. I hadn't expected it to be this well written, or that Shakur would be so damn likeable as a narrator. Or that the poetry would actually be good (worth the price of admission alone). In style, this reminded me of Malcolm X's biography, as Shakur uses the story of her life - in this case interwoven with the story of her incarceration - to explain the Black struggle, alongside more polemical comments on political activity.
The accounts of her l
...more
Charlie
There was some really intense and triggering stuff in this book, and I had a couple of anxiety attacks over it during the week I was reading it (I'd recommend skipping chapter six entirely). However, it's still a very important work and one of the best books I've read this year. I'd been wanting to learn more about Assata Shakur for a while, and this was a good place to do so. The back-and-forth chronology she uses in her chapters is really interesting, because it lets the reader get a deeper un ...more
B-MO
Oct 25, 2011 B-MO rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: police, activists
Shelves: political-stuff
An amazing woman with true morals, courage, intelligence, endurance, and great writing skills. The horror's she went through would have broke most. She was able to keep her head up, and STILL keeps her head up from CUBA where she lives free today after being broke out of prison by the Black Liberation Army.

Assata really allows you in her mind as she faces decisions; showing perspective. One great example of this is the scene where she decides to get pregnant even though she knows the chances ar
...more
Chuck Kinsey
Jun 30, 2013 Chuck Kinsey rated it it was amazing
Since I am only slightly younger than Ms Shakur, I have lived through the periods of which she writes. My personal experiences, being white and suburban, were quite different. However, I can attest from first-hand experience and observation that the treatment she describes is not likely an exaggeration.

While I don't share her conclusions, I certainly empathize with her.

What I find remarkable is that white radicals of the '60s have been either forgiven or their deeds officially forgotten by the
...more
Jennifer
Nov 13, 2011 Jennifer rated it it was ok
I recommend this autobio even though it needed to be edited down by about 50-75 pages. Her descriptions of her childhood & how she became involved with the Black Panthers will enthrall you. What was lacking was any sort of description of her life underground! No names needed to have been released to give some idea of what she went through at that point. I would've appreciated some insight on that time and how she fled to Cuba, where she was given political asylum & still resides. Oh, and ...more
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Assata Olugbala Shakur (born JoAnne Deborah Byron, married name Chesimard) is an Black civil rights activist who was a member of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and Black Liberation Army (BLA).

Between 1971 and 1973, Shakur was accused of several crimes, none of which had sufficient evidence to back them. However, knowing that she would not be able to prove her innocence, she escaped prison and fled
...more
More about Assata Shakur...

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“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more 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.” 209 likes
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
105 likes
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