ASSATA: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

ASSATA: An Autobiography

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Assata Shakur is JoAnne Chesimard, the Black Panther leader who escaped from a New Jersey prison in 1979 and within the past month has resurfaced in Cuba. Her brief autobiography is propagandistic and notable for its omissions, but there are passages of poignant, effective writing. There was a time during the 70's when law-enforcement officials considered Shakur the ""soul"" of the Black Panther movement, and prosecuted her accordingly: between 1973 and 1977 she was brought to trial three times on bank robbery and kidnapping charges, and each time acquitted. However, in 1977 she was convicted of the murder of a New Jersey state trooper and sentenced to life; two years later she broke out in a dramatically successful escape and apparently lived the underground life before finding a haven in Havana. No matter what your politics, this sounds like a pretty unusual life, but you wouldn't know it from Shakur's memoir. It is so marred by authorial suppressions about her adult life as a Black Panther--focusing only on her various trials, and not on what led up to them--that much of the narration seems to reside in a vacuum. There is much talk of ""pigs"" and ""Rokafeller"" and ""amerika,"" but little in the way of hard facts. And Shakur's current rosy view of Cuba as a worker's paradise is either naivetÉ or expediency. In direct contrast, however, are the early, evocative portions of the book focusing on Shakur's childhood in Queens and Wilmington, N.C. There are compelling scenes of her growing up in the 50's (raised in part by strict bourgeois grandparents), running away from home to work in seamy Greenwich Village bars, and finally becoming radicalized at Manhattan Community College during the mid-60's. These evocative passages make up only a small portion of Shakur's story, unfortunately; the rest is largely a tract in which next to nothing is revealed.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1987
ISBN: 1556520743
Publisher: Lawrence Hill