Assata: An Autobiography chronicles the life of Assata Shakur as she goes through a trial for murdering a police officer. Throughout the book, she tells her life story by explaining the trial in one chapter and flashing back to her early life in the next chapter. The book also contains poems that she wrote; the mixture of prose and poetry sets this autobiography apart from others and helps the reader understand Assata and her voice better.
This book was interesting, but I would not call it life changing. Assata came through despicable treatment with optimism and a voice to tell her story; that is incredible. However, I still give this book a rating of okay because she never actually swayed me to her side. Quite simply, she skirts around explaining if she was guilty of any of the crimes she is accused of committing. She may or may not have been guilty; if she wasn’t, it would have helped the reader feel more sympathy, and even if she was guilty of any of them (I don’t think she’s guilty of what she’s actually arrested for), I think the reader would still feel more sympathetic and understanding. By failing to either explain her innocence or admit guilt, she makes her anger seem impotent. She wrote a book to express her outrage, and she wrote poetry for much of her life. She obviously understands the power of the written word, so how could she fail to use that power in such a significant way?
If you’re interested in the history of civil rights or the Black Panther Party, I recommend this book. Even if those aren’t particular areas of interest for you, I still recommend it if the story sounds interesting to you. This is one that I’m happy for having been exposed to without feeling the need to keep it on my shelf forever.