Debut author Castle recounts a life devoted to social activism in the tumultuous 1960s and ’70s.
Castle was born in Detroit, a fourth-generation American of Irish-German lineage. She was raised Catholic, lobbied to be sent to a Catholic high school, and was encouraged to consider becoming a nun. After she graduated high school, she worked for the Ford Motor Company and married Don, a charismatic engineer she met through the local church. She threw herself headlong into domestic life—she had six children before she was 30—but was increasingly disenchanted by the limitations of her “mundane domestic routine.” Also, she was moved by the civil rights movement and inspired by the fearless rhetoric of Father Bill Cunningham, who taught that an authentic Christian morality demands both a commitment to human equality and a devotion to the protection of society’s most vulnerable and abused. After the 1967 race riots in Detroit, Castle understood that radical social activism was necessary and would function as the driving purpose of her life: “I began to understand that there was a deeper need for social justice that responded to the realities in the black community, justice that considered the plight of blacks at the hands of the dominant race and the law-and-order, racist police who ruled over their communities.” Her marriage wouldn’t survive, but she began an unlikely but successful relationship with Mike Hamlin, an activist deeply embedded within the Black Power movement, with whom she would help found the Control, Conflict, and Change Book Club, a group devoted to fostering collaborative efforts between blacks and whites. Castle writes astutely about the extraordinary difficulties that confront activism and includes an “activist’s survival guide” that distills the chief lessons of her own experience. She also writes affectingly of her defection from the Catholic Church and her deep misgivings about its failure to live up to its own principles. Finally, her candor is admirable—her wisdom came at the price of her missteps, which she shares with confessional honesty.
An edifying blend of American history and personal reflection.