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Book Reviews ...
Reviewed: Outlaws of America, by Dan Berger and Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years 1960-1975, by Roxanne Dunbar-Oritz
Review by: Mitchell
I recently read the new book, Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity, written by a local – Dan Berger. I followed this up by reading Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975.
Outlaws of America is a hard book to sit down. It's writen from a present perspective, going through the history of the Weather Underground (though the book doesn't limit it's self exclusively to the WU), from the beginnings of SDS and the Columbia University take-over, up to the the trials for the 1991 Brinks Expropriation (preformed by the Black Liberation Army, with help from former Weather Underground Organization members).
Through what seems to be extensive interviews, David Gilbert helps reconstruct Weather history and deconstruct the mythology and romanticism surround it (from both them and now). Through out, much of what Weather did is examined, with mistakes articulated. Through this, the book teaches lessons and shares experience about the structure, organizing, time period and tactics. For someone who had yet to be born in the 60s or 70s, it's amazing and important to be able to learn and draw off of what is offered. This book seems to be about that kind of learning, as much as it is about anything else.
Solidarity is in the subtitle, and there is a strong focus on that. This is one of the things that make this book distinct from other portrayals of the Weather. The group existed on the basis of solidarity; solidarity with the National Liberation Front on Vietnam, the national liberation groups of the US (such as the Panthers, American Indian Movement, Young Lords, etc), political prisoners. The group was made of up whites who wanted to see other whites embrace anti-racism and anti-imperialism.
Outlaw Woman made an amazing follow up read. Roxanne Dunbar's autobiography is also written about the same time period, showing many events from a different perspective, of course and as well as many different events.
Contrasting Outlaws of America, Outlaw Woman is written almost as a journal, recounting things in the perspective of the time. Where the Weather book talks about changes and reflections mistakes caused, Roxanne writes about how over-the-top, ludicrous or even embarrassing some of those mistakes were: particularly those made by Weather in their early underground stage.
The author starts with leaving her white, working-class Oklahoma home and going to college. She becomes a member of the first anti-apartheid solidarity group. She is a key figure in the creation of the 60s-era women's liberation movement, a founding member of Boston's Cell 16, which published the journal No More Fun and Games. She travels to Cuba (this being not too long after the Cuba Revolution), goes underground for a short period, and ends up working with the American Indian Movement.
This book also has a lot to teach, as well. Unlike the futuristic optimism that comes across in Outlaws of America, this book does not leave a reader with the same sense, but rather a complex understanding of 60s-era movement politics.