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

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  141 Ratings  ·  36 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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Tells you more about Gornick's opinions than Goldman's life, and Gornick's opinions are not interesting, not informed, and not worth your attention imo.

I'm not too familiar with either the history of labour activism or the history of anarchist thought but from studying Russian literature, I do know that on PAGE 1 of this book, Gornick misattributes a VERY famous passage of Nechaev's 'Catechism of a Revolutionary' to Bakunin. How embarrassing.

I also hate how she writes about Goldman. For one thi
Jan 14, 2012 Nora rated it really liked it
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
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
Mar 29, 2012 Mike rated it it was ok
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
Nov 16, 2011 Elaine rated it really liked it
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
Andy Miller
Jan 29, 2012 Andy Miller rated it really liked it
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
emily mann
Dec 18, 2015 emily mann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

both the author and subject come across wonderfully. I highly recommend this book- a delicious and quick read that will leave you wanting more!
Jan 04, 2017 Claire rated it it was ok
This book is riddled with patronizing tones and belittling attitudes. I found it very hard to understand the author's motivation for writing the biography when there was so much criticism toward Goldman's thoughts and actions within the text. I found myself scribbling rebukes into the margins of the text.

But. There were moments that were written very beautifully, and Gornick did an excellent job tying together huge world movements of philosophy and politics. I will certainly use this as a jumpin
Sep 25, 2016 Broadsnark rated it liked it
Very strange to read a book about Emma Goldman written by someone who is often outright contemptuous of anarchists. Gornick isn't a bad writer, technically, she just has very limited understanding of anarchism, critiques of monogamy, or the anti-authoritarian left in general. It makes for an eyebrow-raising read. Still, the author clearly has respect for Emma herself and I can appreciate some of the critiques. Just don't make this the only thing you read about Emma.
Grady Ormsby
Feb 07, 2015 Grady Ormsby rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 19, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it
This brief and inspiring book shows Emma Goldman the anarchist even-handedly. I knew almost nothing about Goldman before reading this book (except for her fictional appearance in E.L. Doctorow's book Ragtime), and now I have great respect and admiration for her. She embodied the relentless demand of the individual for freedom from authority, and tried to inspire others to work toward a society of individuals that were free of government. She was outspoken and greatly feared by conservatives in t ...more
Oct 08, 2013 Gina rated it really liked it
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
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
Apr 26, 2013 Naomi rated it really liked it
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
Caroline Anna 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
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 am reading it for a Greenberg Seminar on "Rebels: Courageous Woman Who Have Changed the World." It is a lively biography of an extraordinary woman. It focuses more on her internal psychology and personal life experiences than on the major historical events that shaped her life. It gives deep insight into how she became who she was, how she experienced the challenges of being a daring leader who spent her life challenging the conventional wisdom on just about every front. —Geoffrey R. Stone
Feb 11, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
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
Margaret Klein
Sep 08, 2015 Margaret Klein rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015, cki-book-group
Emma Goldman is a fascinating woman. This was not a fascinating book. As a general rule I like biographies. This one failed to keep my attention. I am intrigued by how the author compared the anarchists to feminists in the 70s but didn't think she made the case. I am also reading Bitter Fruit about the American coupe in Guatemala and can see some similarities that could be compared and contrasted. I will read No Regrets about Ben Reitman as an additional source of information to support book gro ...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.
Jodi Vandenberg-Daves
Jan 01, 2015 Jodi Vandenberg-Daves rated it it was amazing
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.
Rick Rapp
Sep 24, 2015 Rick Rapp rated it really liked it
Emma Goldman has become an icon for those who protest. This book sheds light onto her upbringing and personality as well as her strong sexual urges which dictated many of her actions. One very disturbing aspect of this book is the list of ways the government trounced upon individual rights. There are some frightening similarities to positions espoused by some of today's candidates. History does, it seems, repeat itself.
Dec 09, 2012 David rated it liked it
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.
Jul 05, 2012 David02139 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 06, 2013 Bridgett rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 31, 2015 Micah rated it liked it
I listened to an interview with Gornick about this book in which the first question was, Why did you write this book? "Money," Gornick answered without hesitating. It shows. Gornick's heart didn't really seem in this book.
Sep 20, 2013 Mindy rated it liked it
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.
Mar 25, 2014 Timothy rated it really liked it

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.

Jan 23, 2012 Karen rated it really liked it
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
Dec 10, 2013 Edward Sullivan rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, philosophy
A slim but engaging and informative biography of the anarchist focusing on Goldman's political philosophy and revolutionary spirit.
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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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