LIVING FOR CHANGE by Grace Lee Boggs


An Autobiography
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An inspiring--though often too distant--autobiography of an activist and the intellectual and political movements that have engaged her.

Boggs, a Chinese-American born in 1915, began political life as a Marxist. Married to Black Power leader Jimmy Boggs for 40 years, she became inextricably intertwined with African-American struggles. She spent years as a disciple of the West Indian Marxist C.L.R. James, breaking with him in the 1960s; she and Jimmy had serious theoretical disagreements with him, and James seems to have been unwilling to engage in substantive dialogue. Today Boggs is in her 80s and still active in human-rights struggles, specifically in grass-roots movements to rebuild Detroit--from the struggle to end youth violence to community gardens to the multiracial environmental movement. She frequently discusses the need for radicalism to adapt to the realities of its time, and her life provides an edifying example: She espoused socialism at mid-century, Black Power in the '60s, and local community activism in the '80s and '90s. But this memoir suffers from historical vagueness on points that would have been easy enough to research; she doesn't remember which newspaper or which writer reported a particular event, or she qualifies accounts of public events with phrases like ``if I recall correctly.'' Boggs's preoccupation with the political at the expense of the personal is somewhat refreshing. But she goes overboard, giving her emotional life almost comically short shrift; when African Gold Coast politico Kwame Nkrumah writes, asking her to marry him and come to Africa, she notes, ``As I recall I declined because I couldn't imagine myself being politically active in a country where I was totally ignorant of the history, geography, and culture.'' Was that the only reason? She leaves us with no idea whether she even liked the guy.

Politically compelling, yet frustratingly unrevealing as memoir.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8166-2954-5
Page count: 344pp
Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1998