Radical Passions

Read published reviews about Radical Passions:

 

Reader Comments:

From Martha Rogers, November, 2009

Dear Kendall,
I loved your book. You write beautifully. Among many things what I loved was your honesty and undiminished passion. You brought us along in the adventure like good friends wholeheartedly invited. I continually wondered how you could remember such vivid details that brought it all to life. I can see why you needed to write the book. Your experience is so varied and full of history that is not written in any usual books. It really is a one-of-a-kind slice of life in this country from several layers beneath the surface sheen. It takes so much work to really promote a publication. I'm so glad I was able to attend while you were in Boston. It was a wonderful gathering.

From Susan Freireich:

I don't know why I have waited so long before telling you how much I loved your book!! I started it a few days after seeing you and Steve at Rachel's and really could not put it down. I felt like I was there with you. It was your story, told in your own style, but it was so easy to relate to, so much of it was my story, too. I've always believed that the more personal and individual the story is, the more universal. And your writing proves it.

I love your honesty and vulnerability in this work. It's a great book. And it's wonderful that you got it together to print it. I am totally impressed.

Susan Freireich


From Sherri, April, 2009:

Dear Kendall,
      I read your book and have passed it on to many friends including the women in my book club. We all admired your candor, humor, and wonderful writing to bring it alive. What an amazing life you are leading--it is quite inspiring. I am so glad you have shared it with the world...more of your gifts to those around you.

Love,
Sherri


From Elizabeth, March 15, 2009:

Well, I finally got to read your book, "Radical Passions." I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading it. You really created a vivid picture of the wild 60's and beyond. I couldn't put it down. I, myself, was only on the fringes of the movements, always aware, but busy raising children in a relatively safe, semi-traditional world. I longed so to be part of everything but that was not my destiny. I could only fantasize about it. Instead, I was drawn to the spiritual world, reading, learning, and then teaching whatever I had learned. I became the center of radical change on another level - a change in consciousness.

This challenged my traditional world, and the people in it, perhaps as much as you did. Someday, I'd love to talk more with you. I so admire your energy, your perseverance, and your courage. I hope you realize that you too, in your own way, fulfilled your soul's purpose by doing what you did. And even now continue to do so.

Now, with Obama as our president, and as consciousness continues to expand, perhaps finally the world will become what you worked so hard for.

Congratulations to you and to Steve for all that you've done and all that you are. Right on!

Love,
Elizabeth


From Jessie:

Kendall!
      I read your book early last fall after Moriah gave it to me. I had of course intended to write to you about it as soon as I finished it, but then life ran away and took me with it, you know that same old story. But I for sure read it, and felt very engaged by it and felt like it opened up a lot for me about you as an individual and about Moriah and how being your daughter has shaped her. It also got me thinking about women who feel called to do justice work in the world and what kind of ability we have to manifest our ideas and our ideals in whatever way we want to.

One of the things that I found compelling about your story was/is your ability to move from one entry point to another in an effort to actualize your radical passions. Not only was there an ongoing shift in what movements you attached yourself to, but a very clear distinction in what parts of your body, your artistic expression/medium, the location of your motivation you were moving out from. I found/find it inspiring that though your priorities and consciousness of the kind of risks you were willing to take personally shifted, you continued and continue to search for ways to act out your commitment to justice and wholeness in ways that work for you. I think this ability to shift, to watch something you have thrown your whole self into fall apart or fade away, and then to get up, dust yourself off and move forward with a little more wisdom or a different tenor to your strength and effort, is the great lesson of the book. You were and are clearly hungry for so much, and those hungers have changed as you have gotten older, but they still seem to burn with the same curiosity, investment, and passion. Your story made me feel safer about my own path, and knowing that it will shift hundreds of time before the work of my life is done. And that to stay close to my core values and my core strength is what is important.

Love,
Jessie


 

Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, bitch magazine, Issue 43

In a time when the word "revolution" is used to sell everything from yogurt to laptops, it's instructive to remember that it was not so long ago that plenty of activists in the United States believed that a real revolution-the kind that involves seizing state power-was possible and worth dying for.

Kendall Hale was one of them. Driven by an ambition to be "written into history," she has crafted and self-published a memoir that chronicles a gutsy and adventurous life, from her revolutionary days at the University of Wisconsin to her middle-aged exploration of various spiritual philosophies. Radical Passions: A Memoir of Revolution and Healing is evenly split between the two halves of its subtitle. The first half, which covers Hale's activist career, is filled with valuable observations of the movements of the 1960's and '70's. The second half, which covers Hale's psychic transformations, is loosely written and at times reads like a catalog of international spiritual practices, from sweat lodge ceremonies to rebirthing rites.

As a youth, Hale's politics quickly surpassed those of her principled parents, who took their children to the 1963 March on Washington and encouraged critical thinking while maintaining a stable Midwestern household. By the end of her sophomore year of college, Hale was swept up in a flurry of militant activism. She wrote to her parents in 1970, "Unfortunately, since you are members of the middle class and the silent majority, our People's Army will have to fight anyone who stands in our way..I will not be coming home this summer." By then Hale was a full-time revolutionary, protesting the war, working in solidarity with Black Panthers, and participating in women's consciousness-raising sessions. Galvanized by Robin Morgan's seminal work, Sisterhood is Powerful, Hale helped organize a women's collective that performed skits intended to provoke conversations about sexism, racism, and imperialism.

The bombing of Madison's Army Math Research Center, as well as her own rape at the hands of three men, left Hale scarred and exhausted. She retreated temporarily from the movement, finished school, and moved east. There she became a rank-and-file organizer, first in nonunion female-dominated electronics factories, including Cambion and Unitrode; and then as a welder at General Dynamics, which was, according to Hale, the largest shipyard in New England. These are two of the most politically instructive chapters in the book, filled with thoughtful discussions of the complicated dynamics of workplace organizing.

Beginning in 1978, Hale's life journey turned international. She met with Palestinian, Russian, and Cuban workers in Havana; confronted the reality of the Cultural Revolution in China; and helped to build a health clinic in the Sandinista village of Esteli, Nicaragua. Finally, exhausted from politics and the responsibilities of parenthood, she traveled to Peru and India seeking spiritual transformation. Radical Passions is a volume of boundless energy. It offers a thoughtful firsthand account of some important movements of recent history. But the book is not without flaws: It's poorly edited, and at their worst, the accounts of Hale's later-life spiritual undertakings lapse into incoherence, as when she describes a 20th wedding anniversary hike with her husband: "I'm in a trance vibrating in earth energy. Yesterday's hike seemed womb-like, tunneling into earth's core where the water falls. Today we pass an incredible phallic mushroom. What a plant signature!" Still, in a time when consumer choice masquerades as political action, Hale's story potently reminds us that it is the actions of groups, not individuals, that change the world. ---Chloe Tribich


Rapid River review, by Beth Gossett

Kendall Hale presents her memoir Radical Passions in stark and passionate prose. It reads a lot like Margaret Atwood's stunning Cat's Eye (1989). Like Atwood's self reflection, Hale shows how outside events and people in her past have shaped the woman who she is today. Her life's journey takes her to Castro's Cuba, Mao's China, and Nicaragua during the Contra War and to her life as wife, mother and veteran of a fractured marriage.

This powerful and moving story is made all the more fascinating because it is a true account of one woman's life, her struggles and triumphs that move the reader through the pages. The book's only real flaw is the cover. It fails in capturing the beauty of Hale's work. A peace sign inside a broken heart would have done the job.

Reviewed by Beth Gossett, Rapid River Magazine


Right Arm, Left Wing, New Age

A review of Kendall Hale's Memoir, Radical Passions. By Pat Stone

Whew--this is going to be tough.

What are the two most controversial topics people talk about? Politics and religion, right? Well, Fairview's very own massage therapist/yoga instructor/political activist, Kendall Hale, has recently self-published a personal memoir, Radical Passions . . . and what is the book mainly about? Politics and religion! Specifically, left-wing politics and New Age religion!

We all have our own (probably strong) opinions about those topics. So how do I review Kendall's book? Do I just describe it--tell you what it's about? Or do I react to it, which would necessarily entail my own political/religious opinions?

Out of respect for Hale and fairness to you, readers, I've decided to describe it. (If you want to learn about my own reactions, though, see the sidebar, “Is God a Salad Bar?”)

One of the reasons Kendall wrote her memoir is so people can learn the history of what really happened in the left-wing political movement of the 1960's. But she discovered that recording her life in print was also a very therapeutic experience.

In a way, Hale has done in print something she once actually did in real life: relive the past. As she recalls in Radical Passions, “My fiftieth birthday party evolved into a ceremonial playback theatre, a life review I created to make sense of a half century of seemingly unconnected random events that brought me to the doorstep of cronehood. It was a life in four acts, the maiden, the rebel, the wife/mother, and the overt spiritual seeker . . . The four acts lasted four hours with a grand finale of me spinning under a tunnel of outstretched midwife hands that birthed me into the spring green sunshine of the adjacent yard.”

Hale's book mainly focuses on two of those four acts: the roughly 20 years she lived in the midwest and northeast as a radical activist and the almost 20 years since that she has lived in this area, focusing more on personal spiritual growth. (See? Politics and religion!) It's a fascinating, somewhat episodic story that may leave you spinning as much as Kendall--like watching a homemade documentary filmed with a handheld camera. Hale was part of much of the tumult of the '60s. Student protests. Marches on Washington. She journeyed to Cuba, Nicaragua, even to China, trying to find a socialist utopia. She sang in a feminist women's singing group, The New Harmony Sisterhood Band. She worked seven years at factory or other blue-collar jobs (including two as a shipyard welder!) trying to organize worker unions. Kendall went through a free-love phase, a lesbian phase, a drug phase, a co-op living phase, and an anti-male phase (“Go struggle with your sexism!” she yells at one boyfriend.) At one point, she writes her parents from school, “Our People's Army will have to fight anyone who stands in our way. This means I could be face to face with you and have no choice but to shoot.” (“I will not be coming home this summer,” she adds.)

Kendall's political-activist decades were clearly intense, her dedication to social justice deep, her anger almost blazing. But she doesn't sugarcoat the experience. Instead, she's almost brutally honest. She readily admits how often her left-wing efforts against “the capitalist corporate enemy” failed. One factory union drive “imploded” because her group of organizers couldn't organize themselves. Another time, the Steering Committee of the Boston communist party sends her a “Dear Comrade” letter. (“My friends. I had been fired by my friends.”) Her visits to foreign socialist utopias prove disillusioning. (She writes from China, “Once again my idealism is knocked flat.”)

As harshly as Kendall sometimes criticizes her fellow leftists, though, she is always hardest on herself. Occasionally she's humorous. At her very first protest, against 2,000 National Guardsmen at the University of Wisconsin in 1968, she sees people raising their right fists and yelling, “Power to the People! Right On!” Kendall throws up her fist and shouts, “Power to the People! Right Arm!” At other times, her self-criticism is almost painful to read. She calls herself “toxic,” “too-blunt”--even “a car wreck on two wheels.”

In 1992, Kendall and her family move to Asheville to try co-housing, a chance at living “our socialist dream” on a personal level. It doesn't work out, but then she and husband Steve Norris move to a lovely piece of land in Fairview, and Kendall's focus shifts more to inner work than outer--namely, massage therapy and New Age spirituality. Kendall jumps into the latter with both feet. She meets people who see elves jump out of bushes and Jesus walk across a swimming pool. Ones who carry lizards on their body and let sows sleep on the sofa. She attends the Harmonic Convergence in Hawaii and the Pachamama Ceremony in Peru. She sets up prayer flags in India and builds sweat lodges in Fairview. Kendall is dubious of many of these “New Age wannabies,” but she does find some moments--in sweat lodges, the beautiful outdoors, therapeutic massage, and a few peak experiences--that feel deep and authentic to her.

By the end of the book, it seems like Kendall has tried just about every new thing there is. What does she conclude? “Formulas and dogmas belong permanently under deleted messages,” she decides, with the skepticism of experience. Still, she dreams that the future will hold a better socialism. And she concludes with, “I do know it is possible to find moments of personal peace like those Buddha found sitting under the Bo tree . . . I can promise you that.”

I very much enjoyed reading Radical Passions. It's a fascinating saga, sometimes positive, sometimes painful, that makes you think about your own life choices. And I commend Kendall for how courageously she's worked at finding purpose in life and how open she is about what she's found.