Goldman's autobiography is a long read, but I implore anyone with a critical mind and a feeling of social consiousness to pick it up at once. The book is testimony of the powerful eloquence and charisma of Emma Goldman, who managed to weave the minute details of the lives of some of our most brilliant and--by virtue of their radicalism--unknown revolutionary activists of turn-of-the-century America and abroad into an absorbing and intense piece of non-fiction. The historical events recorded in this autobiography--often day-by-day accounts--reveal a different perspective of what we're taught in high school history classes, which often portray great movements in societies as the product of one person's toil--usually an ex-president. Goldman chronicles a huge network of vibrant social activists--Anarchists, Socialists, Communists, Humanists, Suffragists, just to name a few--who often worked long hours by day to support themselves while working for their causes at night.
The details are both inspiring and disturbing, as the actions of the American public and its government against immigrants, activists, or anyone else whom it deemed un-american are described with clarity by the victim who lived through it, and not by the patriot historian. One of the most heartwrenching descriptions in the entire book is the mass deportation to Russia on Christmas, 1919, of hundreds of first and second-generation Russian immigrants(Goldman included), many of whom could not even speak Russian.
Much of the second volume is devoted to Goldman's life in Russia after her deportation--a period of her life that is a book in itself. It includes rich details of post-revolutionary Russia-- conversations with Lenin, train rides to remote regions of the country, visits to towns deracinated by the Russian pogroms against the Jews, and her eventual unceremonious departure from the country.
As I already mentioned, the book is a long read. I'd recommend taking a break between volumes one and two. It's worth the time it takes to get through it. Emma Goldman's autobiography is an essential document for anyone who harbors a passion for social change, a curiousity about turn-of-the-century America or the Bolshevik Revolution, or just enjoys good non-fiction.