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Assata: An Autobiography
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Assata: An Autobiography

4.45 of 5 stars 4.45  ·  rating details  ·  6,335 ratings  ·  376 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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beauregard
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
Rowena
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
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
Calvin
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
Nov 29, 2008 Ciara rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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 of say.

Aside fr
...more
Paul Gordon
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
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
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
Carrie
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
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
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
Vicky
Jan 03, 2014 Vicky rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
Sara Salem
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.
B-MO
Oct 25, 2011 B-MO rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
É F.K. Ó Conghaile
Assata's Autobiography is one of the most important books I've read so far in life. It is the boost in my socio-economic critique in a way not present since I first started reading Chomsky in high school. I truly needed this book many years ago, but I'm delighted to have finally read it nonetheless. A lot of the things she says in this book are closely aligned to what I've said and found in my experiences, but instead of my usually-useless political rants, she turns it into a practical critique. ...more
Charlie
There was some really intense and triggering stuff in this book, and I had a couple of panic 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 unde ...more
Inda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amanda
Kyle and Ocean read this and raved. I read this and felt a lack of reaction. I don't know what this means. This book fills in the details of the life of a political prisoner, Assata Shakur. Assata was framed for multiple crimes and then housed and abused in the prison system while waiting years and years for crazy, bogus trials to play themselves out. When she was first arrested she was shot in the chest and taken to the hospital. There police officers harrassed and abused her around the clock w ...more
Alysia
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
Dan Sharber
there are tons of reviews of this on good reads so i will keep this somewhat brief. but i did want to say that this book was even better than i expected. the story in itself is fantastic but the way it is written utterly without ego or bravado makes it that much better. further her path to radicalization mirrors so many people's journey through politics. what is remarkable is the honesty with which she deals with this process. she relates an embarrassing episode where she defends the us's intere ...more
Erin
Jul 08, 2013 Erin rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
I read this book because I wanted to learn more about the Black Panther Party. I was also curious about Assata Shakur because she had just been named to the FBI's most wanted list.

The book actually goes into little detail about the events leading up to Assata Shakur's arrest and her life after her escape from prison, probably to avoid implicating anyone. Instead, the book focuses on her young life, her time at Manhattan Community College leading up to her involvement with the Black Panters and h
...more
Kph25
Oct 07, 2012 Kph25 added it
This was the most influential book of my life so far. A must for political education. Angela Davis writes the foreword, speaking of Shakur's life's work thus far and her current state of exile in Cuba; how her political contributions have rendered her unable to see her family and many friends still in the US.

Shakur starts from her youth and traces the violence with which white supremacy affected her life and the lives of Black people, in New York City as well as in North Carolina. She frames her
...more
Mookie
Before I started reading Assata, someone told me it was written a lot like Huey Newton's 'Revolutionary Suicide.' In my book, praise doesn't get much higher than that, so I went in with high expectations. As I read, I was disappointed to find that she didn't sound much like Huey at all. But I nonetheless couldn't put the book down, and by the end I realized what my friend had meant by his comparison. Assata's voice throughout the book is so unmistakably strong, even in recounting the most diffic ...more
Sharmeen
I read this book first when I was quite young and then re-read it during my trip to Cuba this year. This booked kicked me in the ass more so now. The book goes back and forth from her incarceration and struggles through the 1970s legal system to the story of her youth to radical awakenings.

I think the most inspiring aspect of the book is her descriptions of the trials and treatments in jail that while completely traumatizing and humiliating, what kept her going were her political commitments.

O
...more
Chuck Kinsey
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
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
Christina Iturralde
An amazing read for those involved in the struggle for justice.
J.P.
This was a good book. It made me think about or re-think a lot of things like political affiliations, what it means to be black in the U.S. & what it would take to change things to name a few.

It was very interesting learning about her experiences growing up & up through adulthood. The various experiences she went through that shaped her understanding of things. Her mistreatment, which is putting it VERY lightly, by law enforcement is shocking & terrible. There are some details that a
...more
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57925
Assata Olugbala Shakur (born JoAnne Deborah Byron, married name Chesimard) is an African-American activist and escaped convict 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, of which she would never be charged, and made the subject of a multi-state manhunt.
More about Assata Shakur...
Sparks Fly: Women Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War in the U.S. Let Nobody Turn Us Around: Voices on Resistance, Reform, and Renewal an African American Anthology Still Black, Still Strong

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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.” 102 likes
“Before going back to college, i knew i didn't want to be an intellectual, spending my life in books and libraries without knowing what the hell is going on in the streets. Theory without practice is just as incomplete as practice without theory. The two have to go together.” 45 likes
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