Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Flying Close to the Sun

I could not put Cathy Wilkerson’s Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman down. I carried it with me everywhere. It is no secret that I thoroughly enjoy women’s memoirs. This one was especially enticing, since it covers the turbulent times of the 1960s and 1970s.

Wilkerson, who is now an educator, was an active member in Students for a Democratic Society, which eventually led to her involvement with the Weatherman organization and later the Weather Underground. In 1970, Wilkerson was staying at her father’s townhouse in New York City while he was away. Several members of the Weatherman group were at the townhouse with her. As she cleaned, in anticipation of her father’s return, a member of the group was in the basement assembling a bomb. The bomb exploded, completing destroying the townhouse and killing three members of the radical group. Wilkerson and another woman, Kathy Boudin, escaped. After the explosion, Wilkerson went underground.

Wilkerson questions her decisions and the activities of the organizations she was involved with throughout her memoir. At times, although she was politically and philosophically aligned with the organizations, she characterizes her younger self as someone floating along and kept in the dark about some of the group's activities. Is this true? It is hard to know. I also wish more was said about her underground years and her current life.

Regardless of these issues, the memoir is an intriguing read into one woman's journey during historic times. Wilkerson's discussion of how women's issues were often deemed insignificant and counter-productive to the anti-war movement is an aspect that is often not approached. This alone makes the memoir valuable. Highly recommended!


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