As I mentioned in the Week 4 Overview, Assata Shakur’s story is polarizing when assessed and interrogated from the outside and she there is currently a $2,000,000 reward for her return to the U.S. With help from a number of people, she escaped from prison on November 2, 1979 and lived as a fugitive until she sought asylum in Cuba around 1984. Her autobiography, which was first published in 1987, however, offers insight into how a revolutionary activist opens up about her life and the development of her essential views on her own terms. On a structural level, there is much to mine from the way she juxtaposes her experience with the criminal justice system and her growing up years leading to increased levels of student activism along with the eventual targeting by COINTELPRO, and the integration of both poetry and straightforward historical grounding into her autobiography. There is also the consideration of what she chooses to leave out of her autobiography. There is much to gain and possibly use in terms of structure in your own autobiography from reading this work even if you disagree with her eventual acceptance of violence as a necessary component of system change or find her views way too radical. Alongside the multiple structural components of Assata: An Autobiography, there is the conversational, almost musical flow of the writing, and of course the rhetorical choices to use the lower case i when referring to herself, as well as lowercase lettering for many if not most of the proper nouns in the book. She does not ask the readers permission to refer to the police as pigs, and is unrestrained when describing racist judges, prosecutors, jurors, and cops. Without digesting the content of her story, we learn quickly how to know who she isat least the person she is allowing us to see–through the flow and language choices she uses. For this weeks reading, Id like you to respond to the following three prompts or make up three of your own questions and offer a response to them (or do a mixed bag between the two options). Pick a scene in the second half of the book that stands out to you. Briefly describe the scene and provide some insight on why you chose it. Include a line or two from the scene that you feel incapsulates the intention of it. How does the scene propel the flow of Assata Shakurs growing sense of self-discovery/activism? Why do you think she chose to include it? What structural components of the scene could you adopt for your own autobiography and why? Chapter 13 starts with Shakurs propulsive, intensely articulated, and stream of consciousness-like response to learning about MLK Jr.s murder. Respond to this section using your own propulsive stream of conscious language. How does this section make you feel? Does her deeply felt response to MLK Jr.s murder trigger your own feelings about his killing and her reaction to it? Is there something in your own autobiography that could develop into a section that uses this type of deeply felt, poetic language? An alternative response might be to write a rough draft of something you could actually use in your own autobiography. What would it besomething personal or more political, like the death of a public figure? Write a paragraph about the five-page opening statement Shakur wrote as co-counsel in the kidnapping case of the heroin dealer found in the middle of Chapter 11 that starts: Judge Thompson, Brothers and Sisters, men and women of the jury Some things to consider might be an assessment of the effectiveness of the opening statement through an analysis of its components, highlighting and unpacking some of its essential lines, assessing the use of historical contextualization as persuasion, etc. Other angles to consider might be how you could utilize this genre in your own autobiography if you are someone who has gone or is going to trial, or even as an ally. What needs to be in place for it to be resounding and effective?
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