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Troublemaker: A Memoir from the Front Lines of the Sixtiesby William Zimmerman
Synopses & Reviews
The political memoir as rousing adventure story—a sizzling account of a life lived in the thick of every important struggle of the era.
April 1973: snow falls thick and fast on the Badlands of South Dakota. It has been more than five weeks since protesting Sioux Indians seized their historic village of Wounded Knee, and the FBI shows no signs of abandoning its siege. When Bill Zimmerman is asked to coordinate an airlift of desperately needed food and medical supplies, he cannot refuse; flying through gunfire and a mechanical malfunction, he carries out a daring dawn raid and successfully parachutes 1,500 pounds of food into the village. The drop breaks the FBI siege, and assures an Indian victory.
This was not the first—or last—time Bill Zimmerman put his life at risk for the greater social good. In this extraordinary memoir, Zimmerman takes us into the hearts and minds of those making the social revolution of the sixties. He writes about registering black voters in deepest, most racist Mississippi; marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago; helping to organize the 1967 march on the Pentagon; fighting the police at the 1968 Democratic convention; mobilizing scientists against the Vietnam War and the military’s misuse of their discoveries; smuggling medicines to the front lines in North Vietnam; spending time in Hanoi under U.S. bombardment; and founding an international charity, Medical Aid for Indochina, to deliver humanitarian assistance. Zimmerman—who crossed paths with political organizers and activists like Abbie Hoffman, Daniel Ellsberg, César Chávez, Jane Fonda, and Tom Hayden—captures a groundbreaking zeitgeist that irrevocably changed the world as we knew it.
"Vietnam-era peace activism is as adventurous as going to war in this exhilarating memoir. Zimmerman recounts the radicalization via beatnikism, the civil rights movement, and antiwar protests that led him in 1969 to renounce a promising psychology professorship (he feared his research might somehow be bent to evil purposes by the military-industrial complex) and become a full-time antiwar activist. The switch put him in harness with Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, and Jane Fonda and gave free rein to his 'weakness for audacious ideas': he smuggled penicillin to the North Vietnamese, filmed bomb damage in Hanoi, and, in a hair-raising set piece, air-dropped food to American Indian Movement insurrectionists at the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee. Zimmerman's narrative is more focused on politics than is the typical counterculture memoir. It's also more about acting than thinking. Zimmerman has a knack for staging demonstrations and propaganda coups, which he transfers from the politics of confrontation to the politics of manipulation when he becomes a campaign consultant, but his antiestablishment ideology remains confused, emotional, and never very reflective — even in retrospect — about the Indochina conflict. Still, his is a vivid evocation of the romanticism and extraordinary shifts in consciousness that the 1960s unleashed. Photos. (Apr. 26)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book News Annotation:
This memoir of 1960s and 1970s activist Bill Zimmerman recounts his involvement in numerous important demonstrations and direct actions in the anti-war and civil right movements of the era. Perhaps best known as the daring pilot who, under FBI fire, re-supplied American Indian Movement activists occupying Wounded Knee in 1973, Zimmerman took part in the organization of many important events including the 1967 march on the Pentagon and was involved in smuggling medical relief to the North Vietnamese during the war. Now a political consultant for left wing causes, the author presents an unrepentant story of activist fervor and a desire to take the fight to his foes in the most dramatic of fashions. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
“Too many Americans now see the sixties as a spasm of reckless sexual and political abandon fueled by mind-altering drugs and hypnotic music, a temporary hiccup in the march toward American prosperity snuffed out by the conservative era that followed. They are mistaken. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll played their part, as did selfishness and self- interest, but the political movements of the period were built not by hedonists but by patriots. Our crime, if any, was in taking seriously the ideals of freedom and equality we had learned in school, so much so that we willingly sacrificed personal advantage and passionately fought back when those ideals were violated.
“This book is a memoir of a life lived in the midst of that fascinating maelstrom, when millions of American youth were swept into political activism, and millions more were altered and shaped by new values and perspectives.”
from the Introduction to Troublemaker
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