REVIEW: Conspiracy to Riot: The Life and Times of One of the Chicago 7 by Lee Weiner

The Official Description: In March 1969, eight young men were indicted by the federal government for conspiracy to incite a riot. Some of them barely knew one another, having come together briefly to protest the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the war in Vietnam. First dubbed the “Conspiracy 8” and later the “Chicago 7,” the group included firebrands like Abbie Hoffman and Bobby Seale, but also a little-known community activist and social worker named Lee Weiner, who was just as surprised as the rest of the country when his name was called.

The ensuing trial was a media sensation, and it changed Weiner’s life forever. But as he recalls in his memoir, the actions that brought him before a jury and a vindictive government were part of a long tradition of American radicalism that had shaped him from an early age and remain directly relevant to today’s efforts to change America for the better. From Weiner’s Jewish family’s leftist political roots to wild anti-war demonstrations on the streets and high-profile political appointments, Conspiracy to Riot shows how commitment to your ideals can change your destiny–for better and for worse.

Just the facts: Non-fiction, autobiography, politics, advocacy

Weiner recounts the journey he makes from admiring Batman to being arrested for protesting.- Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit: By the time I had finished reading this book there were little notes on pages and stickies poking out. There are lots of quotes and moments of realization in this book that really stuck with me.

“I loved comic books, too. I preferred Batman, who seemed more real, more possible to me than Superman did. With enough training and determination, you could be Batman if you wanted to be.” – Lee Weiner

Weiner writes of his own evolution. From his times growing up listening to his parents discussing their “business” to attending his first rallies. From a young age, he absorbed his surroundings and learned about legal and illegal activities. He describes the Jewish community he came of age in, the ins and outs of Chicago, and his early experiences with racism.

This is so interesting! I really enjoyed his references to things like comic books and early experiences traveling in the southern US. So many of those early life experiences set the stage for Weiner’s beliefs and values. Memoirs always interest me because I’m able to read about the early years through the filter of knowing where someone ended up in history. People are wonderfully diverse and Weiner is no exception to this.

This book is well-written and engaging. There are some wonderful anecdotes and the emotion behind Weiner’s beliefs is communicated well.

A great book for those who enjoy memoirs, politics, and social theory!

I received an ARC of Conspiracy to Riot by Lee Weiner from Belt publishing via Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.

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