The Guardian • Issue #2098

Worth Reading – auto/biography

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2098

Another Day in the Colony cover,

Another Day in the Colony

Chelsea Watego

An excellent autobiographical account of modern colonialism and racism in Australia. This book’s critique of the various ways white perspectives dominate discourse surrounding Indigenous peoples – at the expense of Indigenous peoples’ voices – is particularly important, with implications for Australian academia, media, and justice systems. Watego’s book is a powerful example of Indigenous voices asserting and reclaiming sovereignty over their own stories.

Angela Davis: an Autobiography

Angela Davis: an Autobiography

Angela Davis is one of the US’s great radical black leaders. She is an energetic activist, campaigning for the release of the Soledad brothers who were imprisoned in Governor Ronald Reagan’s California. She was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, among the black Panthers and as a Communist Party. She spent 14 months in jail before being acquitted of ‘murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy’ in an incredible political trial. She later went on to fight for the rights of prisoners in the US. Her other books include Women Race and Class which gives a great explanation of the links the struggles for women’s rights, black rights, and the class struggle.

This book is as much an important history of the time, written from inside the various struggles, as it is of Davis’s life.

My Autobiography: Charles Chaplin

Mention Charlie Chaplin and everyone thinks of the comedian with the baggy trousers and the moustache, or, in The Gold Rush, boiling an old shoe and eating the shoelaces. He started life in poverty in London, and went on to conquer Hollywood and millions around the world with his films in which those early roots are never lost.

He engaged with US presidents, sometimes to their discomfort, arguing for measures against the Nazis and Russian war relief during the Second World War. He also opposed the Committee on Unamerican Activities which he describes as “a dishonest phrase to begin with, elastic enough to wrap around the throat and strangle the voice of any American citizen whose honest opinion is a minority.” He refers to “the plethora of power given into the hands of men whose moral responsibility and intellectual competence to say the least not infallible, and in many cases questionable, could end in a war of extermination of all life on earth. Yet we go blindly on.”

They Shall Not Pass: The Autobiography of La Pasionaria

Dolores Ibarruri

The legendary Spanish communist, Delores Ibarruri died in 1989 but remains honorary president of the Spanish Communist Party. The reason is partly told in her autobiography. It is an inspirational book, set against the backdrop of the Civil War, but her story is bigger than this book.

She was jailed four times before free elections in 1936 saw her elected to parliament. Her first action was to take the keys to the prison where political prisoners were held and personally release them. She was, after all, La Pasionaria.

There is a statue in her honour in Glasgow. It includes the quote, made famous in her campaign for striking miners in 1934, “better to die on your feet than live forever on your knees.”

Memoirs of a Rebel Journalist – The Autobiography of Wilfred Burchett

Memoirs of a Rebel Journalist – The Autobiography of Wilfred Burchett

Burchett’s life was remarkable by any standards and his work was astonishing. The bourgeoisie hated him for reporting from the ‘other side.’ He covered the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, revolutions in China and the DPRK, and was a staunch supporter of the new socialist republics in Eastern Europe. He defended socialism and he suffered as a consequence, but never flinched. He was, for decades, effectively made stateless by the state and system he criticised.

His story is a huge one. The cause he fought for is huge, and one worth fighting for.

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