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Assata: An Autobiography

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4.54  ·  Rating details ·  17,834 ratings  ·  1,136 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 Lawrence Hill Books (first published 1987)
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Carolyn Le Tang It would depend on the emotional maturity of the 13 year old and the resources available to him or her to cope with the gravity of what they will read…moreIt would depend on the emotional maturity of the 13 year old and the resources available to him or her to cope with the gravity of what they will read. There are graphic descriptions of the violence Assata endured at the hands of the police whilst incarcerated which were deeply upsetting to me as a grown woman. It is, however, an incredibly important book that he or she should definitely read at some point, particularly given how timeless it has turned out to be in terms of sustained police brutality against black people and Assata's incredible commentary on the topic(less)

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Rowena
Jun 27, 2012 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
Michael
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, recs
Fast moving and full of suspense, Assata: An Autobiography charts the development of the revolutionary’s political consciousness and personal ethics. Shakur alternates across chapters between recounting her childhood and adolescence and dramatizing the many court cases she faced as an adult on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence. In the autobiography’s second half, the author discusses her involvement in the radical social movements of the late sixties and seventies, and she details what ...more
beau
Feb 28, 2008 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
Thomas
A powerful autobiography by a courageous, wise, and funny woman. In Assata, Assata Shakur details her coming of age as a black woman in the United States, her court case for allegedly killing a state trooper based on flimsy evidence, and her involvement in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation movement. I most loved this book for Assata’s many incisive, profound points about slavery and racism, the perils of capitalism, and how Eurocentrism and the glorification of whiteness oppress b ...more
Zanna
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, 500mab
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
Monica
This was one of the first Goodreads recommendation I ever received (by goodreads recommendation I mean the computer generated algorithm based on the books that I entered onto my profile). I'm not sure which books prompted the recommendation but it has proven to be spot on.

I had heard of Assata Shakur only in terms that she was the FBI's most wanted woman alive. After reading this autobiography, I still don't know why. On it's face this would seem to be the story of a life of a young black femal
...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
Kaelan Ratcliffe▪Κάϊλαν Ράτκλιφ▪كايِلان راتكِليف
Wow

Assata Shakur. After reading this book, I only feel love for a person who - even within the confines of ink and paper - clearly has so much life and energy brimming from within her. What this woman handled in her time put me in a similar frame of mind as to when I read A Lightless Sky; one of sheer gratitude.

It seems oddly coincidental that I would read Franz Kafkas The Trial just before coming to understand the farce that was Assastas trial. Her struggles that she overcame made me shud
...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
Ciara
Oct 10, 2008 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 strong female role model ...more
Never Without a Book
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Assata: An Autobiography gives you the woman's experience in her most honest of voices that is raw and powerful. Assata takes you on a journey through her youth, the Black Liberation Movement, and alongside her encounters with the US courts. You will be educated on the misinformed of America, it's false history that we are led to believe as we go through the educational system. Now, she doesn't give a thorough explanation of her political views but certainly it is not prudent to reveal too much, ...more
Shabneez
Jun 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I sure took my time reading this.

I was hesitating between 3 and 4 stars.

I find it very hard to trust biographies or autobiographies. I always feel there's a streak of untruth to them.

There are choices that Assata made that didn't agree with me. The whole running away from home, in the beginning and the getting pregnant while being under arrest. This I didn't get at all. What was the purpose?

What strikes me is that she keeps saying she wanted to be a revolutionist. I feel she wanted to matter
...more
Paris (parisperusing)
It breaks my heart how relevant this book is to the times we're living in now. Assata's story could have been written yesterday, has been written time and time again. The next time someone insists "time" is all the world needs to heal itself, to recover from racism, one could easily look to Assata's book as a sign of the times then, now, and forever. Time means nothing to people whose minds are stuck in the past, whose beliefs are drenched in blood and buried in false ideas of superiority.

Assat
...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
dianne
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
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
Renée | Book Girl Magic
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’d been holding off on reading this books for a year now but when I think back at who I was even as short as a year ago, I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to embrace a lot of truth and the history of our people.

I’m currently on a journey to discover my history and where I come from, who my people are and the stories behind how we got to be here. This eye opening journey started with The New Jim Crow and now Assata. This book was so much more than I would have ever imagined it to be and is easily
...more
Carrie
May 13, 2013 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
Lulu
Aug 27, 2015 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.
Chris Chapman
I'll be honest with you
I hate war in all its forms
Physical, psychological, spiritual, emotional, environmental
I hate war

And I hate having to struggle, I, I, I honestly do
Because I, I wish I had been born into a world where it's unnecessary
This context of struggle and being a warrior and being a struggler
Has been forced on me by oppression
Otherwise I would be a, a sculptor, or a gardener, carpenter you know
I would be free to be so much more

I guess part of me or a part of who I am, a part of
...more
Sunny
Feb 11, 2016 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
Alysia
Feb 18, 2012 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
K
I realize that I’m years late, but bear with me. Wow. Wow. That’s truly all I can say. There are some books that people claim you need to read to be a better organizer, and I truly believe that Assata is one of those books. I devoured this book in a little over a day. Her storytelling sweeps you in, her commitment to struggle and growth is to be revered and honored. The book details just all of the ways that the US continues to try to destroy movements, and without reading this book I did not tr ...more
Darryl Suite
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Such an explosive force. So much to chew on: dissection of racism, the biases of the prison system, ignored police brutality, civil rights activism, a takedown of racist America, etc, etc. This book left me breathless. It might be inappropriate to call this book riveting considering it is about someone's actual life, but this is RIVETING. This book will haunt me for the rest of my life.
Jeff Jackson
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Stirring, stylish, and engagingly frank portrait of Assata Shakur that details her early life and the period after her arrest and scandalous trials by the government. A story that is sadly as timely as ever.
Bobbieshiann
“My name is Assata Shakur (slave name joanne chesimard), and i am a revolutionary. A Black revolutionary. By that i mean that i have declared war on all forces that have raped our women, castrated our men, and kept our babies empty-bellied.” 5/5 ⭐️ hands down!

Assata survived growing up believing she had to meet the “white standard”. Accepting of white value systems and standards to the point that skin was bleached and perms were worth the burning of the scalp because that meant our hair could b
...more
Traci at The Stacks
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Whew. Memoir and political manifesto this book is wonderful. Assata takes us through her life and her evolution into a revolutionary alongside her criminal trials. Still (sadly) so relevant.
Sasha
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
Megan’s review really says it all! I’m so glad I read this. Really readable (in writing style, not content) and educational. Makes me wanna learn more about the Black Liberation Army and Cuba and radical pedagogies and other Black Panthers and everything else she talks about!
Shanae
Apr 24, 2010 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
LeeTravelGoddess
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tops
I am ASSATA & ASSATA, is meeeee!!! First, when she didn’t confirm her birthday, lol I knew that we were kindred hearts!!! I loved this autobiography from start to finish 💚. I loved that she always stood up for herself even when death was eminent. The life is a showing of how much black women are hated, mistreated and above all disrespected! I am SO happy that she now lives in Cuba, happy and liberated... I can’t wait to visit the island nation all in all, five stars for this brilliant book; ASSA ...more
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Assata Olugbala Shakur 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 to Cuba where she now resides in political asylum.
...more

News & Interviews

There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
9 likes · 2 comments
“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.” 354 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.”
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