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Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life (Jewish Lives)

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  92 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Emma Goldman is the story of a modern radical who took seriously the idea that inner liberation is the first business of social revolution. Her politics, from beginning to end, was based on resistance to that which thwarted the free development of the inner self. The right to stay alive in one’s senses, to enjoy freedom of thought and speech, to reject the arbitrary use of ...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Andy Miller
A well written if somewhat unconventional biography of a fascinating woman. The author interjects her own opinions and observations about Goldman's relevance to life and radical politics today as opposed to a completely linear story of Goldman's life. And that approach worked here

While the book was short, it gives a full picture of the complexity of Goldman's life. The book contrasted one dimensional anarchists and radicals whose lives were completely consumed by politics with Goldman's love of
So Emma Goldman was a lot more complex than I thought. Vivian Gornick delves into her early life, her passion for anarchism and free love, her romantic loves, her love of revolutions, and her great disappointments with both. No one could say Goldman wasn't courageous: she went to jail for a year (on Blackwell Island, now Roosevelt Island) for giving a fiery, seditious speech on Union Square -- and as soon as the jail house door swung open she basically gave the same speech again to her waiting s ...more
You get lots of gossipy stuff here like the fact that Emma was regularly whipped by her father and her mentoring by the German anarchist Most. Gornick is not kind to radical leftists, seeing them from her exalted perch of a liberal intellectual who is post-modernist done with the silliness of grand narratives. Gornicks' annoyingly obvious biases may put you off, if you know much of anything behind the history of left faction fights of the 19th and 20th centuries. And then you get unintentional a ...more
Kristofer Petersen-Overton
This is a lousy book. Gornick is completely out of her depth. Minor mistakes are revealing. For example, she mistakenly refers to the IWW as the "International Workers of the World" (the acronym stands for "Industrial Workers of the World"). Ok, fine, but it says a lot about her familiarity with the subject. Still, a minor mistake. But within the first two pages of the book, she mistakenly attributes a quote to Mikhail Bakunin that serves as a major theme of her book: "The revolutionary is a doo ...more
This book made me really love Emma Goldman. Did you know that Emma Goldman gave lectures for working class people on homosexuality in like 1920? Like actually. The author's writing is strange mix of dry and enthusiastic that I found very charming. The organization of the book made it a little hard to follow the chronology but I wasn't too bothered. I also was depressed by this book because Emma Goldman was ahead of her time and also... our time. All of her concerns are directly connected to the ...more
Grady Ormsby
Feb 07, 2015 Grady Ormsby rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: political junkies
Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life, by Vivian Gornick is not only a biography of one of the history’s most interesting political figures; it is also an excellent primer on anarchism. To most people anarchy is a political system without any government at all. In a political science course I took many years ago the first lesson I learned is that power is choice. Whoever has the most choices has the most power. Anarchism has to do with the distribution of choice and as a political system it ...more
Esteemed feminist author Vivian Gornick has produced a compelling memoir about Emma Goldman, darling of the radical anarchists and once the most feared woman in America. Red Emma came to America in 1889 and earned her living in the New York garment industry. She had a passionate nature that her father in Lithuania had tried to break unsuccessfully. She loved America and soon found her way into the radical labor and political enclaves of the time. Emma differed from all other socialists and commu ...more
This is more of an essay/summary of Goldman's life, but I found it to be an interesting supplement after having read Goldman's own "Living My Life". Gornick is not always complimentary of Goldman's choices, and sometimes she interjects her own opinion directly in the narrative, which was at times executed a bit clumsily.

The chapter on Goldman's love affairs was rather critical and a bit on the condescending side, and this is also the chapter where the author asserted her own opinion most overtl
She may have started out in a stetl in Russia followed by the sweatshops of The Garment District in NYC, but Emma Goldman cannot be contained or defined by any geography, building, relationship, description. Hers is not your stereotypical Horatio Alger story. She was an original who defied brutal men, mealy-mouthed women, prison guards, deportation, hypocritical Leninists: she knew a Pharisee when she saw one with her laser mind and fearless soul.
Truly an original and courageous human being, s
Jodi Vandenberg-Daves
I loved the way this book took me back to radical history of anarchism and related protests against capitalism, history we tend to forget. I've always been intrigued by Emma Goldman; now I know she's more fascinating than I could have guessed, and her story is connected to the panorama of history, which the author portrays so well. This is very engagingly written, lively, and a short, easy read.
Caroline Bock
This is a vivid accounting of Emma Goldman's life -- the turn of the century rebel/anarchist/lecturer/ -- who made the 'personal political.' Gornick takes the very compelling point of view that Goldman was as much about personal liberty as she was about the desire for -- decent working hours, protection from unfair working conditions, and all the other progressive ideas of the day we now so take for granted. Moreover, she was about being an individual, a woman who spoke her mind amid the men who ...more

Really inspiring. Fine writing. Fine analyses. Emphasizes the passion that Emma and the anarchist movement of the time possessed. Put the turn of the 19th century into an atmosphere of radicalism that I had never associated to it before.

May 30, 2012 Hol added it
I picked this up out of interest in Vivian Gornick rather than Emma Goldman, though I have wondered how the anarchist movement fits into American social history. I’m still not clear about that--it still seems like a European utopian import that is hard to grasp from this historical distance--but I enjoyed reading about Goldman. Hers is a rare case where as the biographical facts pile up, the subject seems more and more inexplicable, more like a force of nature. Part of the fascination is that he ...more
I love biography, and this one was an interesting departure from the usual presentation of a life. Gornick develops Goldman's life through analyses of her personality traits and passions. I was familiar with Goldman's life, having previously read a more traditional biography as well as Goldman's two-part autobiography; if I hadn't had that background, I think this book would have been a bit frustrating, trying to put together the whole of her life from this thematic approach. But it's well-writt ...more
This is not a straight-forward biography following a conventional linear progression of Goldman's life. Many readers will likely find this frustrating, but it does provide the reader with general themes in Goldman's life. I confess I didn't know much about her besides her name, but this book definitely made me want to read more about her and the other figures that populate this interesting little biography.
I love Vivian Gornick because I enjoy following her mind as she wends her way through a subject. Emma Goldman is a great subject, and Gornick's biography of Goldman is both informative and funny. Gornick doesn't hesitate to interject her own opinion, but even when critical of Goldman, Gornick's obvious affection and admiration for her subject fills the narrative with warmth and wit.
Very good description of Emma Goldman and how her passion was so strongly connected to her beliefs. Also a good number of names of early anarchists for evolution of anarchy. Mentions the Spanish revolution as the first place where anarchists were successful in democratizing industry, communes abandoning money.
Gornick's intention with this short book is not to provide complete coverage of Goldman's life and politcal work. Rather, she focuses on patterns of Goldman's emotional life, which was indeed tempestuous. The brief backmatter and lack of chronology make the book unsuitable as an introduction to Goldman.
I learned a great deal about Emma Goldman, but wasn't sure how much of the author's perspective I was imbibing, and how much of the real Emma Goldman. Like many biographies, a lot of it was very subjective, but now I would like to read Goldman's own memoir directly, with no intermediary.
Inspired me to read more about Emma Goldberg and this period of history, especially about anarchy, socialism, communism, unionism at the turn of the last century. Emma has a truly remarkable story and spirit!
Edward Sullivan
A slim but engaging and informative biography of the anarchist focusing on Goldman's political philosophy and revolutionary spirit.
Jean Kelly
Very interesting story of Emma Goldman which also paints a picture of the anarchist movement in US and abroad.
Liked it. Hardly an in-depth, scholarly biography, but quick, well-written, critical, and kind of sexy.
Really well-done little bio of Emma G, and short! I think brevity is waaay underrated in biographies.
Bhaskar Sunkara
reviewing this book for The New Inquiry...
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Date of Birth: 1935

Vivian Gornick is an American critic, essayist, and memoirist. For many years she wrote for the Village Voice. She currently teaches writing at The New School. For the 2007-2008 academic year, she will be a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. She caused a controversy when she said that she had invented parts of Fierce Attachments, her largely autobiographica
More about Vivian Gornick...

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