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Living for Change

An Autobiography

1998
Author:

Grace Lee Boggs
Foreword by Ossie Davis

Living for Change

A remarkable life on the American Left.

Living for Change is a sweeping account of the life of an untraditional radical from the end of the thirties, through the cold war, the civil rights era, and the rise of Black Power, the Nation of Islam, and the Black Panthers to the present efforts to rebuild our crumbling urban communities.

"More than a deeply moving memoir, this is a book of revelation. Grace Lee Boggs, Chinese American, middle class, highly educated, discovers through her encounters with remarkable rebels, blue collars as well as philosophers, where the body is buried: who is doing what to whom in our society. It is an adventure that is truly liberating." --Studs Terkel

More than a deeply moving memoir, this is a book of revelation. Grace Lee Boggs, Chinese American, middle class, highly educated, discovers through her encounters with remarkable rebels, blue collars as well as philosophers, where the body is buried: who is doing what to whom in our society. It is an adventure that is truly liberating.

Studs Terkel

Living for Change is a sweeping account of the life of an untraditional radical from the end of the thirties, through the cold war, the civil rights era, and the rise of Black Power, the Nation of Islam, and the Black Panthers to the present efforts to rebuild our crumbling urban communities. This fascinating autobiography traces the story of a woman who transcended class and racial boundaries to pursue her passionate belief in a better society.

Grace Lee Boggs was raised in New York City during a time when her father was not allowed to buy land for their home because he was Chinese. Educated at Barnard and Bryn Mawr, Boggs was in her twenties when radical politics beckoned, and she was inspired to become a revolutionary focusing on the black community.

During her early years as an activist in New York, Boggs began a twenty-year friendship and collaboration with C. L. R. James, the brilliant and influential West Indian Marxist to whom she devotes a revelatory chapter of this book. In 1953, she moved to Detroit where, she writes, “radical history had been made and could be made again.” It was also the home of James Boggs, an African American auto worker (and later author and revolutionary theoretician) who would become one of the movement’s freshest and most persuasive voices, as well as Grace’s husband. Beginning with their work together on the newsletter Correspondence, Grace and James formed the core of a network that over the years would include Malcolm X, Lyman Paine, Ping Ferry, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Kwame Nkrumah, Stokely Carmichael, and inner-city youth.

Rich in the personalities and anecdotes of twentieth-century progressive activism, Living for Change is an involving and inspiring look at a remarkable woman who continues to dedicate her life to social justice.

Living for Change

Grace Lee Boggs is a first-generation Chinese American who has been a speaker, writer, and movement activist in the African American community for fifty-five years.

Living for Change

More than a deeply moving memoir, this is a book of revelation. Grace Lee Boggs, Chinese American, middle class, highly educated, discovers through her encounters with remarkable rebels, blue collars as well as philosophers, where the body is buried: who is doing what to whom in our society. It is an adventure that is truly liberating.

Studs Terkel

Living for Change might be the most important political memoir of the second half of the twentieth century. Grace Lee Boggs has written a brilliant, crucial memoir. This book is a jewel.

Robin D. G. Kelley, New York University

Grace Lee Boggs has made a fundamental difference in keeping alive the traditions of the struggles for freedom and democracy.

Cornel West, Harvard University

Lifelong activist Boggs is a woman with a mission. Still active in social justice movements at the age of 82, this Chinese American has written a spirited political autobiography that covers the past 60 years. Boggs chronicles not only her own work, but that of her late husband and other grassroots leaders. Indeed, she vividly renders every major struggle of the past 50 years-labor in the 1940s, civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, the New Left and feminism in the 1970s and 1980s and recent movements for environmental justice. An intrepid and courageous fighter for economic, racial and social justice, Boggs writes with a passionate optimism that is a true inspiration.

Publishers Weekly

An inspiring 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.

Kirkus

Living for Change is a work of art, both lyrically written and deceptively powerful. This book will take you on a journey through a fascinating life.

Detroit MetroTimes

An intriguing personal history and a valuable social history.

Library Journal

A Chinese American who has devoted her life to the black liberation struggle, a Ph. D. in philosophy who has soldiered for decades in countless grassroots movements, a New York child of immigrants who has become a self-described ‘griot’ in Detroit’s inner city, Boggs defies categorization.

Village Voice

Grace Lee Bogg’s autobiography is an excellent addition to the growing body of work which attempts to offer the present generation a coherent and synthesized vision of past struggles and transcend black/white prison. In her memoir Living for Change: An Autobiography, Grace Lee Boggs enlightens the reader on her fifty-five years of political and social activism, from World War II to the present.

The Gaither Reporter

A remarkable memoir.

Journal of Women’s History

A brilliant book. Grace is a living example of the visionary, the dreamer-thinker, who creates possibilities through critical revolutionary activity as a moment of counter-hegemony. Living for Change is a great read, honest, brave, and imaginative.

New Political Science

I was not prepared for the power of the memoir that Grace Boggs has written. Here in simple, matter-of-fact words, she records the story of a generation that came of age in the 1930s and was swept up by the idealism and energy of the international communist movement.

Sunflower

Living for Change seems extraordinary and we wonder whether or not that kind of spirit of revolution will rise in a similar way in America again to address the increasingly disparate divisions between classes and the persistent social inequalities that exist despite claims we are in a post-race era.

asainamlitfans

Living for Change

Contents

Foreword
Ossie Davis

Introduction

East Is East—Or Is It?
From Philosophy to Politics
C. L. R. James
Jimmy
"The City Is the Black Man's Land"
Beyond Rebellion
"Going Back" to China
New Dreams for the Twenty-First Century

On My Own
Notes
Index