By Jean Miksch
Activist Odyssey is a fantastic, engaging read. I would read a chapter or two each night. Then in the morning I would excitedly wake up, grab a cup of coffee, and hop back in bed to read another chapter of Sylvia Hart Wright’s fascinating experiences in activist movements from 1961-2001, from Berkeley to Chiapas. Like all of Wright’s former works, this book has been bolstered by serious research, but it reads as if she is sitting across from you at the pub.
Among the strengths of this memoir are the sensory details that Wright supplies about her travels to Kenya, Panama, Mexico, Nicaragua. I could see, feel, taste, smell it all. On a Witness for Peace delegation in Nicaragua—“Witness had a battered old bus that bounced and jounced north as it carried us over rocky roads or over tracks that were barely roads at all and wound for miles through rugged hills.” A further strength is that Wright gives clear explanations and analyses of concepts for the World Trade Organization, structural adjustment, the Zapatista rebellion and more, enabling the reader to understand the root causes of political movements in which they have figured.
Wright shows her role in 20th century activism through detail and dialogue that let the reader understand that during earlier decades, men tended to dominate and speak for radical social change campaigns while women played other parts. Two men who play prominent roles in this memoir and were deeply loved by Wright are Robert Martinson (reported on in the chapter, “The Man Who Changed the Criminal Justice System,” and elsewhere in the book) and the longtime peace and anti-nuclear activist here in Oregon, Charles Gray, (“The Man Who Gave Away a Fortune”). That being said, Wright’s own actions through the decades show her to be a woman with a deep and often productive commitment to movements for those not in power. As a longtime female peace activist myself, I was grateful for her perspective.
For activists or non-activists of any age, this memoir, Activist Odyssey: Inside Protest Movements, Some of Which Worked, brings to life an historic journey by a committed activist. It’s very much worth a read.
Jean Mitsch, just retired from her job as a teacher, has long been an activist.
Learn more about Activist Odyssey at Wright’s website for the book: <www.activistodyssey.com