Read Living for Change: An Autobiography by Grace Lee Boggs Online


No one can tell in advance what form a movement will take. Grace Lee Boggs’s fascinating autobiography traces the story of a woman who transcended class and racial boundaries to pursue her passionate belief in a better society. Now with a new foreword by Robin D. G. Kelley, Living for Change is a sweeping account of a legendary human rights activist whose network includedNo one can tell in advance what form a movement will take. Grace Lee Boggs’s fascinating autobiography traces the story of a woman who transcended class and racial boundaries to pursue her passionate belief in a better society. Now with a new foreword by Robin D. G. Kelley, Living for Change is a sweeping account of a legendary human rights activist whose network included Malcolm X and C. L. R. James. From the end of the 1930s, through the Cold War, the Civil Rights era, and the rise of the Black Panthers to later efforts to rebuild crumbling urban communities, Living for Change is an exhilarating look at a remarkable woman who dedicated her life to social justice....

Title : Living for Change: An Autobiography
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781517901486
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 328 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Living for Change: An Autobiography Reviews

  • Leslie Reese
    2019-04-25 16:01

    I have owned this book for many years (I found the original receipt for its purchase stuck in the middle pages) but didn't have the temperament, attention, and interest to begin a serious reading of it until now. Nkenge [email protected] was a comrade in radical community politics in Detroit with James Boggs and Grace Lee Boggs, and when I met her in the 1980s she would often make references to NOAR (National Organization for an American Revolution) but I was young and not particularly interested in becoming involved. A few times I attended a program or two put on by NOAR, or maybe there was a community arts program with NOAR representatives in attendance, bringing attention to grassroots actions taking place and encouraging participation.These days I am very interested in looking into and learning about people whom I had access to in Detroit, and whose artistic, cultural, social, and scholarly work cut a path for me to walk through. I also have an interest in reading about the lives of unconventional women, and Grace Lee Boggs is certainly one such woman. She is still “alive and kicking,” lucid and wise---June 27, 2015 will be her 100th birthday! Her boundless idealism and optimism seem powered, in part, by a flow of regenerative energy that comes from being active (---rather than non-participatory---) in collaborative struggles for social, political, and environmental change; and testing the limits of her ideas and ideals.If you aren’t already familiar with Grace Lee Boggs, you can check out a 2-minute trailer for a documentary about this 99-year-old philosopher and life-long community activist at “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs” was produced and directed by a much younger Asian American filmmaker, also named Grace Lee.Originally published in 1998, Living For Change is easy to read and by that I mean it is engaging and full of historical details and linkages. Boggs is always weaving back and forth between practice and theory, past with present, and cross-pollinating principles and ideas from a range of voices and movements. Ideas and active engagement are constantly evolving in the person and in the world, and this resonates with me. One thing Living For Change does not do is talk about Grace Lee Boggs’ emotional self, nor does she reflect on her life’s events with a sense of longing or holding herself accountable for particular choices or behaviors. While I kind of miss that, I am interested in the construction of a narrative that doesn’t rely on these things, yet creates a feeling: a sense of deep love and care seem implicit to the values practiced. More echoes of this are described in the work and character of her husband, Jimmy Boggs (1919-1993) political activist, auto worker, and essayist; an African American and Alabama native, whom she writes about extensively. C.L.R. James also has his own chapter.To me this book IS NOT excellent as an autobiography, but, rather for it’s tracing of a real person’s walk through activist development intellectually, spiritually, and through tangential experience. Her book sheds light on the tensions, limitations, commonalities and divisions between capitalist, communist, and socialist systems---which I think is so important because even though its been 60+ years since McCarthyism, people tend to have knee-jerk, fearful reactions to these “hot button” words without understanding that these are not systems-for-life-written-in-stone. She also discusses the difference between rebellion and revolution. The book is also important for the way it joins country with city, youth with elders, and illustrates some of the ways in which generations of multi-ethnic Detroiters from all walks of life have formed organizations and committees and taken actions to put progressive ideas into motion and not just to theorize and talk about them. It pains me whenever I read about Detroit and lazy journalists merely re-hash words describing decades of racial strife, yet never dig into the history of those Detroiters who have enjoyed friendships AND built coalitions to confront social, political, and environmental wrongs. This book is also important for people wanting to know how grassroots activists took up Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ideas to “explore strategies that would involve young people in ‘direct self-transforming and structure-transforming action’ in ‘our dying cities’...” (page 155) leading to such things as the conception of Detroit Summer; and movements to eradicate violence, champion health insurance for laid-off workers, shut down crackhouses, create public murals and cultivate community gardens.

  • Rukshana
    2019-05-07 19:01

    I really enjoyed this book. I am surprised more people have not read it and written reviews on Goodreads. I was inspired to read it after Grace Lee Boggs visited Los Angeles and I heard so much about the conversations she had with local activists while she was here. I haven't read many memoirs/autobiographies by political activists. It was fascinating to see how she lived her life as a self-identified revolutionary, how she created her life in that vision. The conflicts and ideological rifts between various "red" groups and her relationship with C.L.R. James was fascinating - endearing, frustrating, typical! I hear some of the criticisms of other Goodreads readers that the book was very detailed, but being the dork that I am, I really loved those details. I actually want to hunt down many of the pamphlets and other publications she mentions (so many of them!). Definitely full of lessons we can learn from today - lots of insight, struggle, and inspiring people. I found James Boggs, her husband, an inspiration and amazing human being. The concept of "stretching one's humanity" as part of the goal and consequence of revolution resonated with me. I think today's activists might have different analyses and language on violence and crime. The Boggs' intolerance for crime and consistent critique of the "victim mentality" in the black community may be off-putting to some. Grace's critique of the Black Panther Party was also something I had not often heard, since the BPP is generally (and sometimes uncritically) admired amongst today's generation of young activists. As with so many groups and activists of our movements, it is a complicated story, and not easily seen in black and white, right and wrong, effective or ineffective. I would like to re-read this book someday and mark it up with notes - lots to reflect on here, especially what it means to dedicate one's life to social justice and how to perservere in that pursuit.

  • Chance Grable
    2019-05-19 21:25

    This book provides insight into Boggs personal, political and ideological development throughout a significant chunk of the 20th century. Through decades of experiences as a participant in the American Left and Black Liberation Movements, Boggs life also reveals the ideological and political evolution of these movements. Her experiences often show a unique perspective of America social movement history because she participated in parts of movements that were less central to the broader movement, for example, the Black faction of the Old Left and the Leftist faction of the community anti violence movement. Throughout her life of transition from one idea or movement to the next, she took lessons and ideas with her and applied the current work and her growing ideological foundation that guided her. Overall, this book helped me better understand the relationship between ideas and activism. Like most autobiographies I have read, this book has many parts that are largely irrelevant to the outside reader but were certainly substantial to the author especially her detailed accounts of her interpersonal relationships. I found that the meat of this book, where most of the ideas are is in the middle.

  • Marcy
    2019-04-27 16:17

    There is no doubt that Grace Lee Boggs was an extraordinary human and from her life as an activist there is much one can learn. Reading this book you get to witness her evolution in her organising work, filled with insightful observations about her setbacks and successes. It's refreshing to see someone who was able to devote her life to making the world around her a better place. It was also quite interesting to learn about her childhood years and her trip to China as an adult. The letters quoted in the book--especially from friends living in China--are quite revealing and illustrate quite a different take on what was happening in China in the 1980s. It's also wonderful to read about how environmental justice became a central part of her work towards the end of her life--including working on food security in Detroit. A fascinating read all around.

  • Annie Shaw
    2019-05-16 17:00

    I cannot believe that I spent 63 years without hearing Grace Lee Boggs until I heard an interview with her on Pacifica radio (WPFW in DC). I immediately ordered this book and began this part of my education in social activism. Ossie Davis calls this book "a feast for the hungering heart - or even a picnic". And so it is. And, I find much to consider here... what I'm taking away right now is that we are each called to live in sustainable community and she's living that in her home of Detroit.

  • Victoria Law
    2019-05-07 15:12

    She concentrates on her political relationships with people, including her husband Jimmy Lee Boggs. I would have liked to have known more about the personal dynamics of some of her relationships over the years. Still, an interesting read and an eye-opener of Detroit activism and organizing from the civil rights era to the present.

  • Cale
    2019-05-07 23:14

    great picture of a woman whose 60 + year trajectory as an activist in the civil rights struggle should inspire us all. the description of the unfortunate schisms and splits in the radical left of the 30's 40's and 50's is sad but instructive.

  • K. Zhou
    2019-05-22 23:16

    Yes! Found this book to be incredibly inspiring, just so much wisdom. During the course of reading this book, found myself constantly quoting from it in conversations.

  • Anna
    2019-05-15 23:23

    As other reviewers have mentioned, Grace Lee Boggs speaks very little on her feelings and regrets over the past 80-some years, but that by no means diminishes the value of the book. In describing her childhood and the influence of Chinese values on her personality, she talks about waking up from anaesthesia after a tonsil operation and immediately asking "How are the others?" instead of worrying about herself. Her autobiography is similarly concerned with what was going on around her, and she often speaks almost as a standby observer in her own life. At the same time, she is the kind of meeting-crazy activist who has filled her life to the brim with her passion for change and adaptation, and as she said in the documentary, she and her husband rarely talked about anything besides activism anyway! So it's not surprising. I wish the last section of the book, after James Boggs' death, was a bit more filled out, because it was the period in her life when she finally stood on her own. That said, I've never read a better "timeline" of the Left over the past century. As a young-ish person, it's hard to understand when and how things shifted around, and Grace is an excellent guide, building in her own narrative into the changes. Her sadness as the dissolution of NOAR, her confusion and lack of direction in the period after the 1967 Detroit rebellion, are part of what makes her story so inspiring. She is so open about her failures but eternally committed to adaptation, which I think we can all benefit from.

  • Colin
    2019-05-23 18:16

    I really got a lot out of this book...I especially liked the way Grace Lee Boggs' lifelong experiences at the center of radical activism in Detroit illuminated the historical discussions in Robin D.G. Kelley's Freedom Dreams, which i really love. Boggs also had a helpful analysis of the nature of organizing as related to social justice, seeing it as dialectical, or always changing and rife with conflict. In this way, she showed that what are often perceived as "failures" of the left--splinters, organizations starting and ending, a lack of "unity" in struggle, are not necessarily failure, but rather typical of the ever-changing nature of the world. I liked that. My favorite chapter was the last, where she discussed the community-centered gardening movements she helped start in Detroit (such as Detroit Summers and Gardening Angels) and ties them to the larger movement for Enviornmental Justice, and again it's easy to see the relationship between her work and Kelley's when she explores the necessity of hope and dreaming in recreating the world as activists with community at the center. Stylistically, I had a bit of trouble with the structure of the book as I felt it lacked an overall "arc." Each chapter was relatively disparate, and the transitions between them were somewhat jarring. Also, the book is a bit meandering when she takes note of a lot of seemingly pointless details such as "I remember I was really hot in that room." That aside, though, Grace Lee Boggs is an amazing activist who everyone should know about. Read it!

  • Nick Klagge
    2019-05-03 15:18

    Grace Lee Boggs is a fascinating person who I had never heard of until a friend recommended the movie "American Revolutionary," which focuses on her life (it's on Netflix; check it out!). GLB is a Chinese-American woman who was born in 1915, attended Barnard College and got a PhD in philosophy from Bryn Mawr, then became a political radical who spent her life in the black movement in the 50s, 60s and 70s, then in radical efforts to rebuild inner city Detroit from the 1980s through her death last year at the age of 100. Elise and I got this book from the library after watching the movie. While it definitely fleshed out some of the things that the movie necessarily had to skip over, it wasn't exactly what I hoped it would be. Her life is full of surprises--like how she identified so heavily with the black movement that she was basically totally uninvolved in the women's liberation movement or any Asian-American activism--but she is only minimally self-reflective about that kind of thing. As much as she is dedicated to revolutionary study, she very much comes across as a person dedicated to action, and not really inclined to deep analysis or reflection. Nonetheless, she was an amazing person and I'm sad that I only learned about her after she died. Watch the movie! If you like it, you can also listen to the "On Being" radio episode about GLB.

  • Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea
    2019-05-01 16:01

    I started this years ago, got to the last chapter and a half, and inextricably put it down. I recently picked it back up and finished it. It's a nice autobiography of Grace Lee Boggs and her husband Jimmy. It's focus is definitely socialism with a heavy nod toward the Marxist-Leninist strand. The politics weren't my favorite part, but it did offer some honest insight regarding this tendency in socialism as it is not an area of thought I'm dedicated to reading about. The last chapter offers some interest as she writes about her activism as an elder and her ability to stretch her wings and find her own way after Jimmy has died. I honestly felt like this autobiography was fairly narrow--name dropping the who's-who in Marxist-Leninist circles--people I've never heard of. Which is ok; it gave me exposure. The other interesting piece is the name of the book "Living for Change" which I contrast to say Emma Goldman's auto-biography "Living My Life." Whereas Goldman seemed to focus on doing and integration of her politics and her life, Boggs' seems to focus more on political arguments and theory sessions rather than doing or the integration of politics with life. But this is a somewhat vague recollection of the book. Still an remarkable woman who in her eighties and nineties is still going strong and still working to make Detroit a leader in the 21st century.

  • John
    2019-04-22 17:00

    I watched Grace Lee Boggs on Bill Moyers Journal. She's been involved in most of social movements post the Depression.Unfortunately, this book suffers from three problems. 1) She provides many details describing the nuances of the debates between the groups involved in the social movements without providing the context so that one can understand the nuances. The result is boring and long-winded. This is particularly true in chapter three while she talks about the communist movement.2) Her writing is plagues with too many tangents, much like talking with your grandmother. At one point, she discusses various people involved with the start of the Detroit black power movement. At the end of each paragraph she mentions what the person is doing now; it breaks up the story.3) There's a bit of petty, personal attacks throughout the book. I understand that there are personal differences that arise throughout life and within social movements but her tone detracts from the story.

  • Marietje
    2019-05-06 21:22

    Grace Boggs gives the reader an inside view of not only the Civil Rights Movement, but of the struggle to rebuild Detroit through grassroots efforts. I agree with other reviewers that it is more of a history than an autobiography. I also feel that Grace Boggs writes more about other people's efforts than about her own. I hope that somebody else will come forward to write more closely about Grace's role in all the causes she fought for and still fights for, even at the age of 100.

  • Chris
    2019-05-01 17:06

    I had the fortunate opportunity to meet her in Detroit when I worked for her nonprofit org. She's a remarkable woman and an inspiration. Just a synopsis of her life if you don't know her: She was on the front lines with MLK walking down Woodward Ave during the Civil Rights movement and was one of the major founders of the movement.

  • Wendy
    2019-05-14 23:19

    I heard a story on NPR on "Grace Lee Boggs, Activist and American Revolutionary turns 100" I wondered how I had never heard of her, so I tracked down her autobiography...

  • Morag Kydd
    2019-04-23 20:03

    how it was done.

  • Under_rubble
    2019-05-12 18:10

    Interesting for picture of the left around CLR James, and the fair left in Detroit, the language gets wooden towards the end. And it's true about what they say about Trotskyists.

  • Yvette
    2019-04-30 18:20

    I learned from this fascinating woman that it is possible to transcend class and racial biases. And that a better society is possible and perhaps just around the corner.

  • Velvetink
    2019-04-24 18:03

    on Kindle

  • Anne
    2019-05-09 16:00

    Great plug for archives - and all the great stuff at the Reuther in Detroit - a pretty amazing story of a woman committed to making the world a better place. Revolutionary vision.

  • David Monge
    2019-04-25 15:22

    Her entire life has seen so much change. I think the philosophy that she espouses can save our planet. "We are the leaders we have been looking for".

  • Robin
    2019-05-21 16:06

    This book is good, but not as compelling as Bogg's life.

  • Bookworm
    2019-04-26 23:18

    So boring. I had never heard of Grace Lee Boggs until her death in 2015 and it sounded like she had a very interesting life based on obituaries. So I've had this book on my to-read list for a while and it seemed like a good time to read up on an activist I knew very little about. As you can imagine, it's the life and times of Boggs, from her early childhood to how she became involved with various groups, the history she witnessed and the death of her husband. Initially she seems like a real force of a personality but the book quickly goes downhill after the first chapter or so. As other reviews note, unless you're already steeped in the history of the movements and groups Boggs talks about, it was pretty easy to get lost in the wider context. Her train of thought also tended to go off the rails into tangents quite a bit.  And quite frankly, I just didn't like the author. Initially it seemed like she must have been a real force of a personality in real life but after awhile it got a bit eye-rolly and obnoxious. Unfortunately I just felt the author was a bit full of herself (and perhaps for good reason but at the same time I also have some suspicions that may be completely unfounded) and it just filtered through in the book. I'll grant that part of it is that I have very little knowledge of Boggs and that someone who is more knowledgeable about her life and times and her circles might enjoy this book a lot better. As for me I'm glad I borrowed it from the library and didn't buy it.

  • Miko Lee
    2019-04-22 19:21

    I love the idea of this book and of course the great and talented and transformative Grace Lee Boggs. But the book is overly theoretical and I so wanted more personal history about her brilliant life. Still great to get inside the mind of an absolutely amazing woman.

  • MaryEllen Clark
    2019-05-17 17:04

    fascinating glimpse into important and unsung activists and the process of creating radical change!