Emma Goldman by Vivian Gornick
Revolution as a Way of Life (Jewish Lives)

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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 power—these were key demands in the many public protest movements she helped mount.

Anarchist par excellence, Goldman is one of the memorable political figures of our time, not because of her gift for theory or analysis or even strategy, but because some extraordinary force of life in her burned, without rest or respite, on behalf of human integrity—and she was able to make the thousands of people who, for decades on end, flocked to her lectures, feel intimately connected to the pain inherent in the abuse of that integrity. To hear Emma describe, in language as magnetic as it was illuminating, what the boot felt like on the neck, was to experience the mythic quality of organized oppression. As the women and men in her audience listened to her, the homeliness of their own small lives became invested with a sense of drama that acted as a catalyst for the wild, vagrant hope that things need not always be as they were. All you had to do, she promised, was resist. In time, she herself would become a world-famous symbol for the spirit of resistance to the power of institutional authority over the lone individual.

In Emma Goldman, Vivian Gornick draws a surpassingly intimate and insightful portrait of a woman of heroic proportions whose performance on the stage of history did what Tolstoy said a work of art should do: it made people love life more.


About Vivian Gornick

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Vivian Gornick, "one of the most vital and indispensable essayists of our cultural moment" (Phillip Lopate), has been widely acclaimed for her two books of memoir, Fierce Attachments and Approaching Eye Level. She lives in New York City.
Published October 4, 2011 by Yale University Press. 160 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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The idiosyncratic Goldman often ended up on the wrong side of history—e.g., she was a proponent of birth control but no friend to suffragists, and she remained obsessed with Spanish Civil War refugees when the rest of the world was turning its attention to Hitler and the Jews.

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The Wall Street Journal

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Goldman was back in the news in 1901, when Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist inspired in part by Goldman's blistering speeches, assassinated President William McKinley.

Oct 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Emma Goldman: Revolution as a...

Open Letters Monthly

Gornick herself, despite frequent lacerating observations about the ways Goldman relentlessly romanticized her own life, ultimately leads us to admire how Goldman refused “the gap between practice and theory”: It takes a certain kind of mad courage to reject the claim of experience as superior t...

Nov 07 2011 | Read Full Review of Emma Goldman: Revolution as a...

The New Yorker

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Nov 28 2011 | Read Full Review of Emma Goldman: Revolution as a...

Lambda Literary

But as Gornick tells us, that is exactly what Goldman was: notorious, infamous, but also one of the most well-known women in America from around 1893 (Goldman had served a two-year prison sentence for political agitation, but used the time to master fluent English, and thus exponentially amplify ...

Jan 24 2012 | Read Full Review of Emma Goldman: Revolution as a...

The Paris Review

” –Clare Fentress Over Labor Day weekend I read Sailing Alone Around the World, Joshua Slocum’s 1899 memoir, because I’ll be damned if I give up the summery feeling of adventure without a fight.

Sep 09 2011 | Read Full Review of Emma Goldman: Revolution as a...

Boston Review

Do you think we’ve fully absorbed the ideal that the “personal is political?” VG: I do to the extent that people set a lot of store by what was termed in the Sixties “their own hurt feelings.” All the movements in the Sixties grew out of personal testimony: we stood up and said, “This is who we...

Oct 17 2011 | Read Full Review of Emma Goldman: Revolution as a...

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