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Cesar Chavez founded a labor union, launched a movement, and inspired a generation. He rose from migrant worker to national icon, becoming one of the great charismatic leaders of the 20th century. Two decades after his death, Chavez remains the most significant Latino leader in US history. Yet his life story has been told only in hagiography-until now. In the first comprehe Cesar Chavez founded a labor union, launched a movement, and inspired a generation. He rose from migrant worker to national icon, becoming one of the great charismatic leaders of the 20th century. Two decades after his death, Chavez remains the most significant Latino leader in US history. Yet his life story has been told only in hagiography-until now. In the first comprehensive biography of Chavez, Miriam Pawel offers a searching yet empathetic portrayal. Chavez emerges here as a visionary figure with tragic flaws; a brilliant strategist who sometimes stumbled; and a canny, streetwise organizer whose pragmatism was often at odds with his elusive, soaring dreams. He was an experimental thinker with eclectic passions-an avid, self-educated historian and a disciple of Gandhian non-violent protest. Drawing on thousands of documents and scores of interviews, this superbly written life deepens our understanding of one of Chavez's most salient qualities: his profound humanity. Pawel traces Chavez's remarkable career as he conceived strategies that empowered the poor and vanquished California's powerful agriculture industry, and his later shift from inspirational leadership to a cult of personality, with tragic consequences for the union he had built. The Crusades of Cesar Chavez reveals how this most unlikely American hero ignited one of the great social movements of our time.


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Cesar Chavez founded a labor union, launched a movement, and inspired a generation. He rose from migrant worker to national icon, becoming one of the great charismatic leaders of the 20th century. Two decades after his death, Chavez remains the most significant Latino leader in US history. Yet his life story has been told only in hagiography-until now. In the first comprehe Cesar Chavez founded a labor union, launched a movement, and inspired a generation. He rose from migrant worker to national icon, becoming one of the great charismatic leaders of the 20th century. Two decades after his death, Chavez remains the most significant Latino leader in US history. Yet his life story has been told only in hagiography-until now. In the first comprehensive biography of Chavez, Miriam Pawel offers a searching yet empathetic portrayal. Chavez emerges here as a visionary figure with tragic flaws; a brilliant strategist who sometimes stumbled; and a canny, streetwise organizer whose pragmatism was often at odds with his elusive, soaring dreams. He was an experimental thinker with eclectic passions-an avid, self-educated historian and a disciple of Gandhian non-violent protest. Drawing on thousands of documents and scores of interviews, this superbly written life deepens our understanding of one of Chavez's most salient qualities: his profound humanity. Pawel traces Chavez's remarkable career as he conceived strategies that empowered the poor and vanquished California's powerful agriculture industry, and his later shift from inspirational leadership to a cult of personality, with tragic consequences for the union he had built. The Crusades of Cesar Chavez reveals how this most unlikely American hero ignited one of the great social movements of our time.

30 review for The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Scott

    The only comprehensive volume on the legendary leader Cesar Chavez, Miriam Pawel attempts to make a man out of the legend. The last biography on Cesar Chavez was by Jaques Levy written in 1975. A series of oral stories, it helps frame what he meant to people at the time, but doesn't firmly place his role in the movement. Pawel unearths all of the audiotapes that Cesar Chavez made for that book and other audio. She is able to recreate the man over the course of his life. The level of detail from The only comprehensive volume on the legendary leader Cesar Chavez, Miriam Pawel attempts to make a man out of the legend. The last biography on Cesar Chavez was by Jaques Levy written in 1975. A series of oral stories, it helps frame what he meant to people at the time, but doesn't firmly place his role in the movement. Pawel unearths all of the audiotapes that Cesar Chavez made for that book and other audio. She is able to recreate the man over the course of his life. The level of detail from his early CSO days until his death is quite remarkable. Although the story could use better narration, showing us the man is far more powerful than attempting to frame the saint. It's interesting that a movie of his life came out the same time as this book, the movie furthers this legend, but only the book shows us the man. Pawel pulls back the layers of Chavez’s life. His immigrant past, his parent’s success and then failure, his days as a labor worker, and then his days as an organizer are all covered in chronological order. We meet his mentor Fred Ross, his wife and partner Helen, and those who fought with him from the beginning his brothers Richard, Manuel, and of course Dolores Huerta. Chavez learns about organizing a union through his early failures with the CSO. The nuts and bolts action and the ability to sustain a union with farmworkers are daunting. Not only does he have to contend with uncooperative growers, even with better pay rates a union cannot be supported by their dues. When Chavez returns to form the UFW, his focus is like a laser. He is able to call a strike on growers which is much like striking a factory 40 miles wide with dozens of entry points. At one point a young priest takes him up in a small airplane and he shouts through a megaphone to those working in the fields. These brash and brazen actions are what make up the legend and they are just as real. The time period from 1950s to the mid-1970s are the years of the most dramatic strikes, boycotts, and other actions. He becomes the symbol for Mexican-American workers in the field. He is their Martin Luther King Jr. He begins to move beyond the union work. He wants to form a Poor People’s Union and focus on the movement, but not the union. Long term, this decision cements his image and provides a sense of hope not just for farmworkers but for an entire people. The UFW falters with its contracts and its ability to fulfill its promised duties. Other financial troubles follow the union from the late 1970s until Cesar Chavez’s death in 1993. A lot of time is also covered in the 1970s with a cult-like program and things like The Game. These aspects aren’t covered in most histories and it is clear why. It’s a time period where people are unsure what to do next. The passage of major labor legislation in California negates the need for the striking and the constant fight with growers and Teamsters. As far as actions go, Cesar’s efforts from the past and his symbol propel people forward far more than any other union work. If he stopped there, his life would be one for union wonks and not a symbol of a people. By speaking plainly, Pawel is able to give the whole picture of the man and allow the reader to appreciate what he saw long term. He saw beyond the need of a union, he saw the future as gaining respect for a people. Pawel notes this as those once in the fields are now those in higher profile jobs and higher positions. Chavez’s leadership is a symbol of hope and Pawel’s book helps cement that image.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Magin

    This book takes on two massive subjects--Chavez and the farmworker's movement--and struggles under the weight. No stone is left unturned, but not enough space or overarching narrative helps to carry it. The result is a really dense recitation of historical facts that just kind of ebb and flow with each event in Chavez's life. It was a difficult read. This book takes on two massive subjects--Chavez and the farmworker's movement--and struggles under the weight. No stone is left unturned, but not enough space or overarching narrative helps to carry it. The result is a really dense recitation of historical facts that just kind of ebb and flow with each event in Chavez's life. It was a difficult read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hakan Jackson

    I didn't know much about Cesar Chavez before getting this book. I was shocked at all of the ugly stuff that was in this book, but the good definitely out weighs the bad. I suppose every hero has his blemishes and I will make sure I read more accounts of this movement. History is a messy thing and I'll continue to get my hands dirty to obtain a grasp on it. I didn't know much about Cesar Chavez before getting this book. I was shocked at all of the ugly stuff that was in this book, but the good definitely out weighs the bad. I suppose every hero has his blemishes and I will make sure I read more accounts of this movement. History is a messy thing and I'll continue to get my hands dirty to obtain a grasp on it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    This is an in-depth, totally honest must-read, based on thousands of hours of audiotapes, notes and more. Pawel, in the first "critical" biography of Chavez, gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly in the life of the man who gave California's farmworkers their first union, then, due to stubbornness, wrongly-directed singlemindedness and authoritarian leadership, wrecked it. Pawel quotes Chavez talking about that "singlemindedness." That was part of his genius in getting the United Farm Workers st This is an in-depth, totally honest must-read, based on thousands of hours of audiotapes, notes and more. Pawel, in the first "critical" biography of Chavez, gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly in the life of the man who gave California's farmworkers their first union, then, due to stubbornness, wrongly-directed singlemindedness and authoritarian leadership, wrecked it. Pawel quotes Chavez talking about that "singlemindedness." That was part of his genius in getting the United Farm Workers started. So, too, was his recognition that, because agricultural workers were largely uncovered by US labor law, there were few rules to play "outside of." Related to that, he was an outside-the-box thinker in early tactical and strategic moves. If only we could end his life, or freeze it, in the early 1970s, then the Chavez of myth — a myth largely perpetuated by Hollywood-type liberals, which in turn adds to the degree of truth in generalizations about that subculture — would closely match that of reality. But, we don't end there. Pawel shows that recognition as a union, especially on larger contracts, meant that the UFW was no longer "outside the system." That became even more true in the mid-70s, after California passed into law the bill creating the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. It was at this point that, as Pawel shows, Chavez essentially went off the rails. He decided the UFW needed to be a social movement, not a union. He decided his single-mindedness needed to be more authoritarian. And, to bring this all together, he decided to borrow some "control" tools from the notorious 1970s cult, Synanon, even working with its founder. The result? Longtime Chavez supporters were accused of being traitors to the cause, Communists, or whatever, and booted out. Besides Synanon, Chavez also borrowed ideas from Mao and the Cultural Revolution. (All of this was new to me.) Meanwhile, because he wasn't a good administrator, but was too much of a "controller" to delegate administrative tasks, maintaining and renegotiating contracts fell by the wayside. Expanding the union outside of California did the same, with Chavez even crushing independent organizing efforts. (Austin, Texas having a "Cesar Chavez Boulevard" could be considered a bit laughable for this reason.) And, the UFW wound up owing a bunch of back taxes. At the same time, Chavez began intervening a lot more in California politics, an idea he once rejected. He also began marketing the UFW as a brand, especially to the likes of those Hollywood-type liberals, even as more and more contracts with growers were lost and the union was shrinking. However, as a result, he was able to expand the political power of "la raza." And, to do so somewhat outside of California. So, Austin's commemoration of him isn't totally wrong, either. This just catches the tip of the iceberg of a must-read book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andy Miller

    A biography of Cesar Chavez that is as thoroughly researched and balanced as it is well written. The author, Miriam Pawel, has clear sympathy for the farm worker movement's efforts to organize and obtain fair wages and working conditions for the workers. Her portrait of Chavez's efforts to lead and inspire the workers and to gain other labor union support and allies from all over the country is one of admiration. Pawel describes the early successes both in obtaining many contracts and in buildin A biography of Cesar Chavez that is as thoroughly researched and balanced as it is well written. The author, Miriam Pawel, has clear sympathy for the farm worker movement's efforts to organize and obtain fair wages and working conditions for the workers. Her portrait of Chavez's efforts to lead and inspire the workers and to gain other labor union support and allies from all over the country is one of admiration. Pawel describes the early successes both in obtaining many contracts and in building political power and widespread support The book's tone changes when the story transitions to what happened after the initial successes. Pawel's thesis is that Chavez was not interested in the nuts and bolts of implementing the contracts and addressing worker concerns once the contracts were signed. I am always a bit leery when I read criticism of someone who accomplished so much against great odds, I resent the tendency to tear down "larger than life" heroes. But Pawel's description of the weaknesses are well researched and documented, many of her sources are the other heroes of the farm worker movement, even Cesar's brother Richard who was one of the few who could tell Cesar that they were letting their workers down by not doing the nuts and bolts. Pawel also documents how many of the pioneers of the UFW movement were chased away or forced out of the movement by Chavez as he became more isolated as time went on. To Pawel's credit, her candid descriptions of some of the later failings do not undercut her sympathy for the farm worker movement, if anything they add to the frustration of what could have been while acknowledging the initial successes and a lasting legacy to his work that endures despite some of the later controversies and difficulties There were some great tidbits. During an early fast by Chavez, Martin Luther King sent word that he would like to come and support him. Chavez declined, according to Pawel, explaining to his friends why should someone on his way up be dragged by someone on his way down Some UFW allies broke away from Chavez over undocumented workers. Chavez viewed them as strikebreakers and potential strikebreakers and there is evidence that Chavez cooperated with reporting many to the INS so that they could be deported--many of his allies had success in organizing undocumented workers and winning elections on their votes, but the allies were often terminated from the union There are great stories like this sprinkled throughout this great biography of a inspiring though perhaps flawed man

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    This is a well researched, balanced portrait, which means the end of the life is less inspiring than the beginning. Still, I commend this life story to anyone interested in our country, and the importance of agriculture and labor. Thanks to Atlanta-Fulton Public Library for the loan.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    Jesse Jackson once described himself as a "tree shaker, not a jelly maker." That description certainly applies to Cesar Chavez. Chavez was a born troublemaker. He had a superb ability to draw attention to a problem, and rally people to battle against it. This was both his strength and his weakness. Initially, his skill was used for the good of farmworkers, drawing attention to their horrible working conditions. After this brilliant success, however, paranoia overtook Chavez. He seemed to have a Jesse Jackson once described himself as a "tree shaker, not a jelly maker." That description certainly applies to Cesar Chavez. Chavez was a born troublemaker. He had a superb ability to draw attention to a problem, and rally people to battle against it. This was both his strength and his weakness. Initially, his skill was used for the good of farmworkers, drawing attention to their horrible working conditions. After this brilliant success, however, paranoia overtook Chavez. He seemed to have a pathological fear that his leadership would be undermined, and so he used his chief skill (starting fights) against his own people. He relocated the UFW headquarters to the middle of nowhere and turned it essentially into a commune. The union leadership were required to live, work, and eat together. Inspired by the leader of the Synanon cult, Chavez employed a control technique known as "The Game" in which UFW employees were instructed to publicly shame each other. Those who questioned "The Game" were immediately labeled "assholes" who needed to be purged. Indeed, Chavez became totally ruthless in discarding anyone whom he suspected was a threat to his leadership. He acknowledged that he had not a single friend in the world. Meanwhile, the labor union itself became an afterthought. Instead, Chavez was focused on his commune, and turning the UFW into a "movement." Prominent, well-meaning liberals assumed, on the basis of Chavez's earlier life, that he was actually still doing something meaningful for the farmworkers. On the contrary, his famous union was very poorly mismanaged on a day-to-day level, and was doing little to help its paltry membership. Ultimately, this is an unforgettable story of someone whose unique ability to cause one hell of a ruckus tragically turned inward on the very movement it inspired.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    This is a very thoroughly researched book. Having said that, it was very hard to read as the writer seemed to have a lens of vilification and didn't do very much to highlight the positives that made Chavez such a magnetic and powerful cultural figure. It is a picture painted with cynicism. Although we all know that he was not a perfect man, I feel this look was unbalanced. I look forward to reading more that will help balance this perspective. This is a very thoroughly researched book. Having said that, it was very hard to read as the writer seemed to have a lens of vilification and didn't do very much to highlight the positives that made Chavez such a magnetic and powerful cultural figure. It is a picture painted with cynicism. Although we all know that he was not a perfect man, I feel this look was unbalanced. I look forward to reading more that will help balance this perspective.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

    An excellent biography that avoids hagiography and provides a holistic view of Cesar Chavez. Miriam Pawel's knowledge of the UFW and her connections within it allow a perspective that is unique. As the first major biography of Chavez, this will be a primary source for future scholars. An excellent biography that avoids hagiography and provides a holistic view of Cesar Chavez. Miriam Pawel's knowledge of the UFW and her connections within it allow a perspective that is unique. As the first major biography of Chavez, this will be a primary source for future scholars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Misty

    I didn't know much about Cesar Chavez going into this book. I'm glad I dove into it. It was very comprehensive and felt very empowering to the people. I didn't know much about Cesar Chavez going into this book. I'm glad I dove into it. It was very comprehensive and felt very empowering to the people.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Had Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcom X not been assassinated, what would have become of the civil rights movement they sparked in the 1950s and 60s? Would they have continued to lead the movement to even greater heights or would they have been done in by their success? Those are difficult questions to answer for historians and biographers, but we do have a case study in one of the few civil rights leaders to come out of the era alive, Cesar Chavez. Chavez, by sheer force of will, lead a m Had Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcom X not been assassinated, what would have become of the civil rights movement they sparked in the 1950s and 60s? Would they have continued to lead the movement to even greater heights or would they have been done in by their success? Those are difficult questions to answer for historians and biographers, but we do have a case study in one of the few civil rights leaders to come out of the era alive, Cesar Chavez. Chavez, by sheer force of will, lead a movement for the rights of poor and downtrodden farm workers, most of whom were Hispanic, and inspired a generation of Latinos to seize their rights and their rightful place in America. Yet his tragedy is that he could only ever see himself leading the charge and could never delegate work to others, countenance even the possibility of a rival, and always knew how to fight a war with the growers, but could never learn to live in peacetime. This wonderful biography by Miriam Pawel traces Chavez’s life from the farmlands of Arizona and California to the heights of power and influence in the civil rights movement. Pawel’s book works on so many levels. For one thing, it traces all of Chavez’s successes and gives credit where credit is due. Chavez was a visionary with an incredibly strategic mind that could think multiple steps ahead of the competition. Not only that, but his zeal, his willingness to sacrifice himself physically to the point of death, and his charismatic ability to lead sparked a movement amongst the poor and Latinos almost single-handedly. But Pawel also notes that the qualities that made Chavez so successful would also be his undoing. Chavez was a visionary who was endorsing things that, during his time, seemed crazy, but today are considered part of the fabric of California culture such as yoga, organic farming, and vegetarianism. But that also meant that he could be so far ahead that no one had any idea what the hell he was doing. Sometimes, I don’t think even Chavez knew either. He also had a charismatic ability to lead, but he could never let go of control and delegate responsibilities to subordinates. As the farm workers union he created gained more success, Chavez would become more and more authoritarian and paranoid, even forcing out some of the most talented and dedicated servants he had. All of these qualities would clash in the mid- to late-1970s, and the farm workers’ union would never recover its luster because of it. Pawel’s book strips away the legend of Cesar Chavez to reveal an inspiring, complicated, and frustrating figure. Pawel deftly threads the needle between the saintly Chavez who regularly fasted and promoted nonviolent protest and the union leader willing to condone some unsavory, even violent, tactics from his underlings, particularly his cousin, Manuel Chavez. This biography reads like such a gripping Greek tragedy that there were a few times I wanted to cry and scream “What are you doing Cesar?!” This was a great book that helped me better understand the legendary civil rights figure, warts and all. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about Cesar Chavez and this under appreciated part of civil rights history.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    This is an extremely well-researched and well-written biography. I don't know anything about the author, but it seemed to me that she really wanted to admire Chavez but the facts got in the way. I didn't know much about Chavez, either, except that I vaguely remembered the grape boycott and all the celebrity support, and I had heard that he was partly responsible for the end of the legal guest worker program for the farmworkers and the subsequent rise in illegal immigration. Pawel covers both issu This is an extremely well-researched and well-written biography. I don't know anything about the author, but it seemed to me that she really wanted to admire Chavez but the facts got in the way. I didn't know much about Chavez, either, except that I vaguely remembered the grape boycott and all the celebrity support, and I had heard that he was partly responsible for the end of the legal guest worker program for the farmworkers and the subsequent rise in illegal immigration. Pawel covers both issues; Chavez was adamant that the UFW not organize the border jumpers because he felt they depressed wages for citizens, and his cousin Manuel organized what they called the "wet line" to deter Mexicans crossing the border for work, by beating them up and dumping them naked back across the line. (Needless to say, Manuel's many violent and illegal shenanigans in support of Cesar went unacknowledged since nonviolence was the official posture of the union.) It was often unclear, both to me and to the loyal supporters Chavez thought should work without pay, what exactly he was trying to do. He was reluctant at first to form a union, preferring instead to promulgate a cause. The things they did to encourage farmworkers to sign on, like providing a credit union, a clinic, an insurance company, were not his focus at all and were so incompetently run by unpaid volunteers that many union members had their credit ruined because the insurance checks were so delayed. He was scathing in his criticism of former field workers who moved into the middle class and accused them of materialism and being traitors. He wasn't really interested in getting union contracts with the growers, either. So the whole organization depended on outside money, from other unions, donors, and government grants. Chavez refused to delegate any of his power, forcing out longtime allies when he needed someone to blame for a failure. He became enamored with the Synanon con/cult organization, and forced his associates to play the "Game" he learned there, basically an encounter group crossed with a struggle session where they cursed and screamed at each other for hours. He kept his wife and eight children in poverty while he traveled around organizing, and like many charismatic men he had no lack of groupies. He inspired a generation with his social justice rhetoric, and nobody seems to have noticed that he had no lasting positive impact. Bad ideas, however, are forever.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Extremely thorough, critical biography of Cesar Chavez. To me the book has a lot of missing parts. The author portrays Chavez as essentially a cult of personality/meglomaniac who couldn’t stand anyone questioning his authority, vision, or decisions. The author also portrays UFW as a union that essentially failed the farmworkers. The book emphasizes the negatives more than the positives, which makes me think, really could all this be possibly true? Did the author fail to provide information about Extremely thorough, critical biography of Cesar Chavez. To me the book has a lot of missing parts. The author portrays Chavez as essentially a cult of personality/meglomaniac who couldn’t stand anyone questioning his authority, vision, or decisions. The author also portrays UFW as a union that essentially failed the farmworkers. The book emphasizes the negatives more than the positives, which makes me think, really could all this be possibly true? Did the author fail to provide information about the positive contributions UFW made to farmworkers and farmworkers’ rights? What’s the author’s intention? I know that most of the reviews just say this is a realistic and human view of a leader often placed on a lofty pedestal, but I see still see some missing pieces in the biography. For about a third of the book, the author focuses on the internal battle between establishing a union vs. a movement in the 1970s, but the author doesn’t seem to explain how it was actually resolved, because there continued to be internal strife well into the 1980s. At one point she quotes Chavez as being happy to resolve this issue, but how? Yes, he would just get rid of people, but did that resolve it because he got rid of anyone who questioned him? Also, the author makes Chávez seem like a crazy, paranoid leader without any real reason for feeling so. The FBI spied on Chavez for years, just like MLK, which I find a reasonable basis for being paranoid. The author merely referenced that he thought there were infiltrators without highlighting this known fact: http://articles.latimes.com/1995-05-3... and http://www.nytimes.com/1995/05/31/us/.... These documents were released by a FOIA request in the 1990s. If the author was intending to give a complete and thorough biography of Chavez as a person, she didn’t cover this aspect, which begs the question about the “Wetline” and whether reports that UFW paid cops and beat-up/harassed non-documented people were actually true. I’d like to review the sources, specifically the papers and transcripts with the key individuals involved in UFW. Anyway, just my two-cents.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I loved how the book gave a full view of Cesar Chavez's character, not just highlighting his strengths, but also his struggles. Showing not just his political stances (though controversial at times), but also an interpretation of the perspective behind them, such his evolving stance on border control. Before reading this book, all that came to my mind with the name Cesar Chavez was the boycotting of grapes, particularly for Mexicans. It's interesting reading about his role and interactions with I loved how the book gave a full view of Cesar Chavez's character, not just highlighting his strengths, but also his struggles. Showing not just his political stances (though controversial at times), but also an interpretation of the perspective behind them, such his evolving stance on border control. Before reading this book, all that came to my mind with the name Cesar Chavez was the boycotting of grapes, particularly for Mexicans. It's interesting reading about his role and interactions with Filipino farmers, his usage of new technologies providing strategy for protests, opposition to pesticides for their harmful effects on both farmers and consumers, organizational drama and politics within groups working with Chavez, and much more.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    As a biography of the great Chicano labor leader, co-founder of the United Farmworkers, this is near five stars. Pawel does a good job tracking the origins and struggles of the campaigns for decent wages and conditions of agricultural workers, beginning in the San Joaquin Valley and spreading outward. But I have a serious caveat, which is the Pawel relegates Dolores Huerta, less visible but nearly as crucial to the movement, to the background shadows. That's partly because Huerta spent much of he As a biography of the great Chicano labor leader, co-founder of the United Farmworkers, this is near five stars. Pawel does a good job tracking the origins and struggles of the campaigns for decent wages and conditions of agricultural workers, beginning in the San Joaquin Valley and spreading outward. But I have a serious caveat, which is the Pawel relegates Dolores Huerta, less visible but nearly as crucial to the movement, to the background shadows. That's partly because Huerta spent much of her time away from Chavez, but that's more excuse than justification. Huerta deserves an equivalent biography and now that I'm done grousing, I'll give this an enthusiastic thumbs up.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    A very illuminating look at Cesar Chavez. Maybe not the best book for someone who has never read much about him to begin with. Overall, it is a precautionary tale of how a born leader can get caught up in personal control and ego-driven visions. While Chavez' original drive to improve the lives of marginalized farm workers in the West was compelling and inspiring, his later quests to build a Shangri La and increasing paranoia and mistrust of others was disturbing. Not sure where to go now - anothe A very illuminating look at Cesar Chavez. Maybe not the best book for someone who has never read much about him to begin with. Overall, it is a precautionary tale of how a born leader can get caught up in personal control and ego-driven visions. While Chavez' original drive to improve the lives of marginalized farm workers in the West was compelling and inspiring, his later quests to build a Shangri La and increasing paranoia and mistrust of others was disturbing. Not sure where to go now - another view of him and his work?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Vinnie Casanova

    I appreciate what I now know about Cesar Chavez from Pawel's work. It was exciting in the beginning to watch the rise of Cesar and his clear skill in organizing people. What he did in the early years of his life to raise attention to the conditions of farmworkers is incredible. Without giving away any spoilers, I did not see the backend of his life coming that Pawel highlights in detail. Pawel doesn't shy away by giving readers the good, bad, and ugly of Chavez's life and leadership. The book eb I appreciate what I now know about Cesar Chavez from Pawel's work. It was exciting in the beginning to watch the rise of Cesar and his clear skill in organizing people. What he did in the early years of his life to raise attention to the conditions of farmworkers is incredible. Without giving away any spoilers, I did not see the backend of his life coming that Pawel highlights in detail. Pawel doesn't shy away by giving readers the good, bad, and ugly of Chavez's life and leadership. The book ebbed and flowed with some parts feeling harder to get through. As a whole, I think it's a great book to get an understanding of who Chavez is and the impact he had on people then and now.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Smadha

    Learn a lot about the individual and history behind the farm workers union.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Timmy Connelly

    Look up this book on his life or look up the word devotion and you will get to the same place.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Christine B.

    A really interesting biography. I learned so much about Chavez (not all of it positive).

  21. 4 out of 5

    max thien

    Read for HIST17C: History Of The United States From 1900-Present

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Well written and very lengthy biography of Cesar Chavez. This been called by some a "warts and all" biography and I can see why. The Chavez portrayed here is no saint. He is often ruthless, very difficult to work with, sometimes paranoid, (especially in his later years) and a control freak who has difficulty delegating anything or letting others exercise any degree of independent leadership. But I don't think this should really surprise us. Very few people are able to affect large scale social ch Well written and very lengthy biography of Cesar Chavez. This been called by some a "warts and all" biography and I can see why. The Chavez portrayed here is no saint. He is often ruthless, very difficult to work with, sometimes paranoid, (especially in his later years) and a control freak who has difficulty delegating anything or letting others exercise any degree of independent leadership. But I don't think this should really surprise us. Very few people are able to affect large scale social change. The skills needed to fight against overwhelming odds, to be certain of the rightness of your decisions when all others tell you what you are trying to do is impossible, and to make your personal needs (and the needs of your family and friends) secondary to the cause are not skills that most of us possess. And those skill sets can also make someone difficult to live with or work for or love. If you're interested in Chavez or the history of the Farm Labor Movement, I recommend this book. I think you'll be grateful for what Cesar Chavez accomplished and you'll probably wish you'd had a chance to meet him or hear him before his death. But I also think you'll be glad you didn't work for him or become very close to him personally.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Uwe Hook

    Pawell humanizes a man that became a national icon. She documents his brilliance as a strategist and his limitations as a man who lied, initiated violence against braceros, and often acted to aggrandize himself rather than serve farm workers. Those actions led to the failure of a farm workers' union that had great potential. He did, however, bring the struggles of farm workers into the American consciousness, and inspired many people who went on to do even greater good for workers than he actual Pawell humanizes a man that became a national icon. She documents his brilliance as a strategist and his limitations as a man who lied, initiated violence against braceros, and often acted to aggrandize himself rather than serve farm workers. Those actions led to the failure of a farm workers' union that had great potential. He did, however, bring the struggles of farm workers into the American consciousness, and inspired many people who went on to do even greater good for workers than he actually did. The last interviewee of the book said of Cesar that "the good outweighed the bad". That is what, in final analysis, should probably be his epitaph.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Diener

    I love biography, but have a hard time hanging with those that exceed 300 pages, especially when all I am trying to do is gain a broad understanding of the subject. That is all I was trying to do with Chavez. Unfortunately, I didn't finish this biography before it was due at my local library and I was not absorbed enough in it to renew. I do feel like I know a lot more now than I did about Chavez, which was not very much. I would recommend this book to a student of Chavez, the labor movement or I love biography, but have a hard time hanging with those that exceed 300 pages, especially when all I am trying to do is gain a broad understanding of the subject. That is all I was trying to do with Chavez. Unfortunately, I didn't finish this biography before it was due at my local library and I was not absorbed enough in it to renew. I do feel like I know a lot more now than I did about Chavez, which was not very much. I would recommend this book to a student of Chavez, the labor movement or 20th century California history.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    I learned a lot that I didn't know before. The "teatro campesino," such a remarkable moment in history. The huge challenge of class differences between a union staff (accountants, lawyers, etc.) and the workers they represent. The weirdness of the later years after Chavez got too much power. Pawel does a great job of identifying themes and showing how early dreams and motivations evolved over time. I learned a lot that I didn't know before. The "teatro campesino," such a remarkable moment in history. The huge challenge of class differences between a union staff (accountants, lawyers, etc.) and the workers they represent. The weirdness of the later years after Chavez got too much power. Pawel does a great job of identifying themes and showing how early dreams and motivations evolved over time.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Janneli Laurel

    I love this book! It takes you through the journey of Cesar Chavez from the beginning and gives such detailed information on his journey that you cannot grasp through a movie! It is definitely a must read, it is a longer book, however, it is well worth learning the true history of Cesar Chavez and the Farms Labor revolution and it keeps you engaged the entire time! I would highly encourage people of all ages everywhere to truly learn the history!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    A well-rounded, thoroughly researched biography that is sympathetic to the subject but honest in revealing the many flaws of the revered labor leader. Chavez was a man as capable of hubris and pettiness as he was of brilliance and greatness. In other words, he was as human as the rest of us.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Noelle

    Detailed description of the UFW movement with some interesting background into what might have undermined some of it's strengths Detailed description of the UFW movement with some interesting background into what might have undermined some of it's strengths

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bob Peru

    a warts and all biography of the man. this book shows that chavez was far from the saint he's often made out to be. but as the book concludes, the good he did FAR outweighed his (many) faults. a warts and all biography of the man. this book shows that chavez was far from the saint he's often made out to be. but as the book concludes, the good he did FAR outweighed his (many) faults.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris Rodgers

    Sad to hear the negatives parts of the Chavez story

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