Direct Action: Memoirs Of An Urban Guerrilla by Ann Hansen (Between the Lines), $22.95 cloth, 493 pages. Rating: NNNN
Tired of the pro-American propaganda bombarding you these days? Counter the capitalist spin on terrorism by reading Ann Hansen's stunning autobiography. She's the real deal, a convicted terrorist -- or freedom fighter, depending on your view -- who was sentenced to life imprisonment and released after seven years.
In the early 1980s she was one of the infamous Squamish Five who bombed the Cheekeye-Dunsmuir hydro substation in BC and the Litton Systems plant in Ontario (where a dozen people were seriously hurt) because it manufactured parts for cruise missiles.
She was also a member of the Wimmin's Fire Brigade that firebombed Vancouver porn store Red Hot Video, a controversial action that created a rift among feminists.
An excellent writer, Hansen spins a beautiful tale of bright-eyed youth fighting for justice, offering as well a clear-headed analysis of our social system's failings.
In Direct Action, she develops from a happy child to a woman willing to die or languish in jail for life in order to bring important issues to the media's attention.
The actions get increasingly serious: spray-painting slogans, shoplifting, paint bombs, robbery at gun-point, firebombs and explosives. At times, Direct Action can feel like a catalogue of the kinds of activism Hansen brushed up against (prisoners' rights, vegetarianism, native rights, separatist feminism, etc), but it is much more potent than that.
You feel certain that something terrible is going to happen to Hansen as a result of writing this book. It's so detailed. She can't possibly tell these stories at this point in time. But she's done it and has also done justice to the passion and conviction of anti-capitalist activists the world over.
Hansen joins the Left Words event Sunday (November 4). See readings, this page.