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Living My Life is a 933-page life history of Emma Goldman. The Lithuanian-born woman was not only a journalist, but also an anarchist, and an advocate of free love and birth control (Goldman, 2011). Goldman was the most prominent woman during the early 20th century. Living My Life was written in France and published in two volumes; the original volume was published in 1931 by Alfred A. Knopf, while the abridged version was published in 1934 by Garden City Publishing Company. The book covers in detail the personal and political life of Goldman from her early childhood days all through to 1927 (Goldman, 2011). The issues she talks about include her place of birth in Czarist, Russia, the socialist enclaves of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, emotional romances, political disputes, and incarceration among others (Goldman, 2011). The author chronicles the era that she played a role in shaping, including the Progressive Eras reform movements, as well as her disappointment with the role of Bolshevik in the Russian Revolution (Goldman, 2011). This book certainly provides a fascinating account of the ideological and the political turmoil that are relevant in the current world.
Lessons Learned From the Book
The major lesson I have learnt from the book comes from its title, Living My Life. Just like Goldman who lived her life by fighting for what she believed was right without wavering, we too should stand our ground and fight for what is right irrespective of the consequences whether in relationships, workplaces, or governments. We should not let critics prevent us from achieving our goals in life.
How the Book Connects To the Ideas Discussed In Class
Several issues discussed in the book connect to the topics we have discussed in class for instance, the Bill of Rights. Goldman was famous for advocating for freedom of expression (Goldman, 2011). Freedom of expression was important both then and now. Peoples opinions cannot be heard when they are not free to express themselves, and as a result, democracy is hindered.
A Review of the Book
Goldmans book is not only exhaustive and engaging but also entertaining. There is so much to relate to in this book; beyond being a radical activist, Goldman was loved, heartbroken, physically tortured, and underwent family strife (Goldman, 2011). These are common issues that occur in our everyday life, and reading the memoir makes the reader feel connected to it. By reading Goldmans book, one gets to know that the rumors about her being a heartless psychotic or some disturbed romantic who is making an effort to compensate for her grim childhood are not true. Instead, she is a caring and passionate person who stood her ground on extremely unpopular issues such as free love.
Other than being an autobiography, the theoretical contributions in Living My Life, are invaluable. Of importance to note is her significant influence on vital issues such as freedom of expression, atheism, sexual liberty, capitalism, free love and reproductive rights among others (Goldman, 2011). Perhaps, this explains why she was a darling of womens movements in the 1970s. One thing that caught my attention is when she was forced to leave the United States immediately following the First World War, during the jingoist period of militarism. Having been accused of being a mass agitator of the issues above, she was deported to Russia (Goldman, 2011). In my opinion, it might have been her opposing stand on militarism that led to her being kicked out of the U.S. Another intriguing thing about Goldman is the fact that she valued aesthetics. I did not know that she had a passion for art, especially theater, until I read this book. She was not only a radical and public scholar, but also an orator who spent most of her time talking to people concerning drama (Goldman, 2011). When she describes how she was talking to a roaring huge crowd, it makes me miss the high school speech competitions that I used to participate in.
Goldmans beliefs are beyond that of an ordinary revolutionist i.e. the right to beautiful and radiant things, the right to self-expression etc. Her choice to enjoy herself made her clash with the radicals she worked together with, who were over-serious about life. No wonder she said, If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution! (Goldman, 2011). I also salute Goldman for her courage to stand her ground for what she believed in, especially during the 1920s when women voices were insignificant. Moving from being a strong supporter of the Bolsheviks to publicly criticizing it during the Russian Revolution required courage. In addition, Goldmans life is very inspiring (Goldman, 2011). Note how she relentlessly struggled for freedom of humanity from capitalism, as well as the state, without giving up. Her efforts to make the world a better place are endless from advocating for improved working conditions for prisoners while she was imprisoned in the U.S., her tireless support for the Russian Revolution, to her public condemnation of the betrayal of Bolshevik (Goldman, 2011). She was always somewhere doing something significant. I must say that Goldman was superhuman. Where did she get her motivation and strength to do everything she did? It is not every day that we find people with no personal interests, who go out of their way to fight for change without wavering. Her honesty with her numerous romantic relationships and her dedication to free love are very fascinating too.
However, just like any other book, this memoir is not without flaws. It is disappointing that this book does not have an ending. Up to the last page, the author still continues to write about various themes in the book. Maybe, it was intentional because she knew that she would be alive to witness and continue writing about the Civil War and the 2nd World War. I would really have loved to read a first account of these wars from her viewpoint. Another thing to note about the book is Goldmans use of endless characters and locations, all which keep changing with time. It is easier for a reader who is not very keen to get lost or confused while reading this memoir. She has also spent most part of the book recounting historical events; I would have loved to hear more about her opinion on various issues such as racism, which is conspicuously missing in this memoir. This book is also too long i.e. 993 pages. Though I had a difficult time reading it, it is worth noting that what Goldman achieved during her lifetime is worth much more than the length of the book, and, therefore, worth reading. The book is well written with simple English that is easy to understand, though there are several names of people and places used which are confusing. In general, Living My Life is an interesting and informative book that I would recommend for anyone with interest in history or, the American politics.