Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Book Review: 'Failure to Appear : Resistance, Identity and Loss. A Memoir' by Emily L. Quint Freeman

 Failure to Appear  by Emily L. Quint Freeman

The impact of a singularly important life

Author Emily L. Quint Freeman has not only written one of the more powerfully impressive memoirs, but she also has been and continues to be an activist for human rights, peace, and social justice. During her career as an insurance and risk management specialist for professional liability, computer security and privacy risks, she has been often quoted and interviewed on CNN Evening News, NPR, and The New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and many other important formats.

And while she is now considered a significant voice, her memoir shares the tough life she has lead that brought her to this stature. Emily graduated UC Berkeley in 1967 and while at Berkeley she became an activist for those turbulent times – the fallout of the Vietnam War and racism. Declaring herself to be a lesbian troublemaker, she was disowned by her family, joined a group of Movement activists organizing against the Vietnam War, became a draft counselor, and was arrested in 1969 for burning draft records of 40,000 men – going underground toward the end of her federal trial for nineteen years from 1970 – 1989. That underground period was impacted by the AIDS crisis, women’s rights, gay liberation movements, and racial conflicts.

Emily’s near-incredible memoir is offered with such fine prose that the journey on which she ushers us becomes a personal one for the reader: were it only possible that each of us had the courage to experience the life she has lead! As she opens, ‘My Story begins with a name; Linda J. Quint. The J is in memory of my great-grandfather Joseph, who was a peddler fleeing pogroms and conscription into the Tsarist army. Like so many Jewish immigrants, he booked steerage passage to Ellis Island sometime between 1890 and 1900. He arrived with a sack and a name tag pinned to his chest, knowing no one….’ From that seed of reflection Emily’s life unfolds in a manner that fully captures our attention and our emotions.

There are many aspects of Emily’s life that focus our attention – identity, family, sexuality, commitment to beliefs, conscience – each delivered in a most memorable manner. This is an important book on many levels: a fascinating story, a beacon of light and hope, and a record of an historic period of public resistance in the 1960s that is a heritage to honor. Very highly recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.