Living My Life
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Living My Life

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  874 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Anarchist, journalist, drama critic, advocate of birth control and free love, Emma Goldman was the most famous-and notorious-woman in the early twentieth century. This abridged version of her two-volume autobiography takes her from her birthplace in czarist Russia to the socialist enclaves of Manhattan's Lower East Side. Against a dramatic backdrop of political argument, s...more
ebook, Abridged, 672 pages
Published April 4th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 1910)
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Linda
If you want to read the story of a woman who knew everyone worth knowing, originated every radical idea that's ever flitted through your mind eighty years before you did, loved literature, drinking, clothes, flowers, theater, conversation and parties...well, this is the book for you.

Inspirational and fun.
Liz
this is so good. I was always a bit "eh" on Emma Goldman because I read her essays and didn't find them earth-shattering. Plus I don't always agree with her political analysis -- her race-blind attitude was particularly unfortunate. You could say it was par for the times, but she was so far ahead on so much else that I expected more -- and anyway that's rubbish, lots of people critiqued her race politics at the time. That said, it turns out that Goldman's strength was not as a theorist but as an...more
Kressel Housman
I read this when I was transitioning from far left activism to Torah Judaism, and this was the perfect book for it. Emma Goldman was as far left as they come – an anarchist at the dawn of the 20th century – but she was Jewish, and I agree with her grandmother, who said to the warden while bringing her Passover food to eat in prison, “My Chavaleh does more for the poor than the traditional girls.”

You can’t help admiring Emma Goldman after reading her autobiography, even if you don’t agree with h...more
Greg
Aug 29, 2007 Greg rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: petty political history types
Ms. Goldman's role in the Kronstadt Rebellion of 1921 is the best reason I can find to recommend this book, and I wish she would have spent more time talking about it and why she supported the rebellion, rather than presuming her readership understood the story in advance.

Other than providing a rare firsthand account of said rebellion, much less from a source unsympathetic to both the Soviet state and the west, I am hesitant to recommend the book.
Goldman was a part of the conspiracy to murder He...more
Matt
This is a very intriguing, exhaustive autobiography that puts the lie to many of the flippant treatments you read/hear of Emma Goldman elsewhere. She was not some unbalanced romantic trying to compensate for a bad childhood or an inhumane psychotic, but instead a reflective, caring, passionate person who stood up for issues and people that/who were extremely unpopular in her day (and some of them still are). Her ideas were radical and her critiques of capitalist society salient.

Still, it is easy...more
Kate Sedon
Yep, five stars like I thought. I may not have enjoyed this memoir for lyrical qualities and literary conventions. But, feck lyrics and conventions. Through her memoir, Goldman subtly reminds her reader to keep things in a perspective of sorts (a couple conceptual steps back, if you will). What's more important? Literary conventions or humanitarian ideals? Money and power or love and dignity? I've been moved by many a memoir, but Goldman's holds a special place (right next to Jensen's A Language...more
Donquierafaber
It is amazing how this compassionate, vibrant, obstinate woman is able to transport the reader from the transformation of her life from early adulthood to mature adulthood as though we are right there with her through it all. Although I do not necessarily agree with her political views, she gives a unique and valuable perspective both on the bourgeoisie of American Capitalism and on the disappointing realities of Russia's Communist Revolution. A must-read for anyone who wants a better understand...more
Mike Snyder
This is the story of a woman who lived the fullest possible life. It's just a tragedy that what she dreamed of, what many people of her time dreamed of, was destroyed by the Bolsheviks. She saw the Communist reality in Russia and very quickly understood its demonic statism which she knew, and which it did, lead to disaster. A little long-winded at times, perhaps, but always enthralling for people intrigued y the question of how to change society for the better..
Ryan Mishap
The best way to learn history is from the people who lived it and this autobiagraphy is the best one I've read.
Elizabeth
"Red-Emma" tells it like it is- an uncomfortable read that will knock your socks off.
Elaine
Last time I started this, I could not get into it. This time -- maybe because I am taking a brief series of classes in Yiddishkeit at Green Apple Books sponsored by the Workman's Circle -- I am really enjoying it. I also read Vivian Gornick's biography of Emma, so I have a better overview. But I'm finding Emma's own retelling of her life very engaging.

J.Edgar Hoover called Emma Goldman "the most dangerous woman in America," and this book tells you why. Goldman is a terrific writer -- she can com...more
Sasluu
This edition is abridged (I don't know, for the life of me, where you can find the full thing --it seems to be out of print), and sometimes the transitions did come off as somewhat jarring. Still, it was over 500 pages long, and worth every single one of them. Emma Goldman lived in one of the most interesting periods of American history, or rather, during a period in American history where things were exactly the same as they are now, but instead of targeting Muslims, the (then) "war on terror"...more
J
It was daunting for me to come face-to-face with Emma Goldman at last. I wanted so much to admire and like--and feel that I could have been liked by--the woman whose ferocious, clear-eyed, resolute face stared out at me from the book's cover. The first few chapters elated me. Although I certainly had it a lot softer and easier than the young Emma, we had so many of the same values and ideas. Her self-discoveries, her delight in her own growing understanding of the world and in her ability to aff...more
Kate Savage
I discovered Emma Goldman a decade ago through the E.L. Doctorow masterpiece Ragtime. The professor asked for historical research on one of the characters, and that's how a conservative, orthodox undergrad wound up at the little shelf of anarchist theory in the basement of the Brigham Young University library. Reading E.G.'s biographies and letters I was introduced to this gracious, charming, sane, and brave woman, and ergo had my world flipped upside down.

And for all that I never read her autob...more
Chilly SavageMelon
There’s a horrible tendency to believe American rebellion started in the late 40’s/early 50’s with the Beats, psychic reaction to the horrors of the A bomb, the flowering of a socio-economic class called “teenager” and it’s beloved rock and roll. People wrote poems at Walden pond, hobos hopped freight trains and there has always been a party in Chinatown, but somehow it doesn’t get credit for being as sexy as Elvis to modern minds. Obviously American rebellion goes back much further than this, a...more
Alex
this is such an epic masterpiece! i can think of at least 5 reasons why you should read this:

1. for the sordid details of Emma's many love affairs and open relationships.
2. for a view into the political and economic realities of the United States at the turn of the last century, which i don't know have ever been better explained than through Emma's immigrant, anarchist eyes.
3. for Emma's comments on virtually every radical and left-wing figure the 1890s - 1920s, including her relationships with...more
Daniel
Sep 12, 2008 Daniel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone.
Recommended to Daniel by: Howard Zinn
Emma Goldman was inspiring and almost superhuman. Her life contained an immeasurable amount of struggle for the liberation of humanity from capitalism and the state.

The metastory of Emma Goldman is quite sad. Having lived a large portion of her life in the United States, she adopted it as a homeland, and was promptly deported. Because Russia was in the midst of revolution, she therefore considered that her homeland. But conditions became so malformed there that she was forced to sneak out. And s...more
Randy
A very inspiring work by the anarchist-communist. Goldman tirelessly committed herself to the Cause and her beautiful ideal. She lived to motivate the masses and teach workers of the more sustainable and just alternative of anarchism. Her autobiography begins by giving insight into the injustices of being an immigrant, and throughout the book, the reader learns a first-person account of all of the movement's major demonstrations and events of the late 19th and early 20th century in the United St...more
Morgan
Sep 09, 2008 Morgan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: my mom, your mom, Sarah Palin
In a time when even the farthest flung reaches of the American left are actually sorta psyched about a presidential candidate, the words of Emma Goldman come as a refreshing kick in the pants. Her writing explodes with life, bursting with an unabashedly anarchist ideology. The book reads like a who's-who of late 19th/early 20th century anarchism, rich with colorful details chronicling the events and differences within the movement. All the while, Emma Goldman keeps it personal, relating all thes...more
Rachele
This book was amazing. I never thought a nearly 2,000 page autobiography of a woman who lived 100 years ago could be so inspiring, funny, poignant, thought-provoking, educational, honest, and sad. Goldman was an incredible writer — the book mixes momentous historical events which she lived through and participated in, and small-scale vignettes about her personal life and relationships to other people. Both are fascinating.

As a social justice activist, it's was also riveting to read a firsthand a...more
Rachel
May 15, 2009 Rachel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Buffs
Recommended to Rachel by: Camille
I finally finished. It was a wonderful book, if only to open my eyes to a part of history that I was not even aware happened. Sometimes, I forgot how important it is to read biographies, autobiographies, and histories to truly know the past. They barely scrap the surface in school (unless you were a history major but even then, do you get it all?). I would write more but I feel it would be inadequate to describe. Her life was interesting and the movement she dedicated herself to was one I could...more
Lena
Wow! What a life!! Hard to believe that it's non-fiction! I loved pretty much everything about this book. Despite the fact that each volume is around 500 pages (there are two volumes), it just drew me in and was a fairly quick read. What I found most enjoyable was that it read as both historical account and memoir, with a lot of details on her personal life, including relationships with her lovers, famous historical figures, assassins, and her family. This book shows that the seeds for social ch...more
Jessica Silk
I wish I had the pictured version because the graphics are way cooler than my version and the type was so tiny in my copy that it took me 3 weeks to read. I really loved this book. I wish I read it a long time ago. I really appreciated her honesty, vulnerability, and humbleness. the writing is very much like storytelling or talking to a friend. I liked the way in which she really models the feminist "personal is political" mantra (before it had a name) by putting herself out there, including her...more
Elizabeth
I picked this up randomly at the book store one day. Emma Goldman is one of the most amazing unheard of women in American History. This is part of a time in American history that gets swept under the carpet, along with the Haymarket Riots in Chicago. I was greatly influenced by her stubbornness and tenderness. If you want to know more about anarchism/communism and the feminist movement in the late part of the 19th century and early 20th century, here is a first hand account.
Fabio Bertino
L'autobiografia di "Red Emma", una donna forte e determinata. Nata in Lituania a 15 anni emigra negli USA dove, di fronte alla violenza della repressione antioperaia, diventa anarchica e femminista. Quando scoppia la rivoluzione torna in Russia, dove in seguito lotta contro l'affermarsi dello stalinismo e poi ritorna in America dove continua a sostenere i suoi ideali e le sue convinzioni. Una vita piena e affascinante.
Seth Kenlon
Emma Goldman really knew what she was talking about, and this book is an interesting look at how an anarchist becomes a serious anarchist. It also reveals a lot about human nature, and it never ceases to surprise me that early 20th century society was basically the same as early 21st century society; caste system firmly in place, oppression of the poor, facist, imperial, nationalistic, violent.
Damesh Bridget
One of the books I am not going to finish in near future, if ever not because it is not interesting but it is too big and let's admit it I had to read it as an assignment. From the first 10 chapters I can say it is quite interesting and unlike other memoirs I put my hands on it is easy to spot the events that changed Emma's life completely and how her thinking was shaped.
Red Fox
I read this because it was Emma Goldman herself writing, about huge events in history, but I have to admit it was a struggle to complete as Emma Goldman is not a writer, and the book is a collection of postcards made into a book. So I can't give it 5 stars, but I would recommend it if you like the truth.
Evalin'satom
Sympathy for the oldest profession. Incarceration for public speech. A swinger in a time of sexual repression, and most importantly, one of the greatest voices for fair labor practices in all of human history. Living My Life will give you all the strength you need to live yours. This book is a pure inspiration.
J. Rogue
I read this for the first time at 16. It was the only book about anarchism at the library in NC. At the time, it totally changed my life, I devoured it. I read it again ten years later an my opinion is now vastly different. I am giving it four stars for nostalgia's sake, and because I think it is fun to read.
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Emma Goldman was a feminist anarchist known for her political activism, writing and speeches. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.

Born in Kovno in the Russian Empire (present-day Kaunas, Lithuania), Goldman emigrated to the US in 1885 and lived in New York City, where she joined the bu...more
More about Emma Goldman...
Anarchism and Other Essays Living My Life, Vol. 1 Living My Life, Vol. 2 Red Emma Speaks Marriage and Love

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“I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things.' Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world — prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own closest comrades I would live my beautiful ideal.” 21 likes
“I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from convention and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement would not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it.” 10 likes
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