Secret Wars of Judi Bari: A Car Bomb, the Fight for the Redwoods, and the End of Earth First

Overview


In l990, a car bomb in Oakland almost killed radical Earth First! leader Judi Bari and her passenger, a co-leader and onetime lover, Darryl Cherney. The FBI accused the pair of transporting the explosive device knowingly as part of a violent campaign of "ecotage." From her hospital bed, Bari charged that the timber interests of Northern California and the FBI had tried to kill her. The car bomb and the competing conspiracy theories about who was responsible made Bari a national figure; but she had long been a ...
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Overview


In l990, a car bomb in Oakland almost killed radical Earth First! leader Judi Bari and her passenger, a co-leader and onetime lover, Darryl Cherney. The FBI accused the pair of transporting the explosive device knowingly as part of a violent campaign of "ecotage." From her hospital bed, Bari charged that the timber interests of Northern California and the FBI had tried to kill her. The car bomb and the competing conspiracy theories about who was responsible made Bari a national figure; but she had long been a legendary figure among California activists. A veteran of the Vietnam War protests of the 1960s who moved to militant feminism and environmentalism after the war ended, Bari was involved in the radical eco-organization Earth First! by the mid-1980s and leading the fight against the logging companies on the Northern California coast. Not long before the attempt on her life, she had summoned young people from all over the country to join her in a crusade to save the remaining redwood forests of the Pacific Coast in a "Redwood Summer" based on the Mississippi Summer of the civil rights movement a quarter-century earlier. The Secret Wars of Judi Bari traces Bari's rise from college activist to a would-be Mother Jones of the Redwoods. Drawing on extensive interviews with Bari's friends, comrades and critics, Kate Coleman describes Bari's long struggle for selfhood against her communist parents and her husband (himself a former member of violent political groups); against those in her movement who felt that she was not radical enough; and ultimately against the FBI and the State of California. Judi Bari's wars continued until her death from cancer five years after the explosion that changed her life forever. In creating a dramatic portrait of a unique American life, Coleman takes the reader inside the radical politics that outlived the 1960s, and into the Earth First! movement and the back-to-nature counterculture of the North Coast of California. This is a world that Coleman has lived in herself and spent her career documenting as a writer. In The Secret Wars of Judi Bari she has produced a book that is at once a crime story, a social history, and a compelling biography of a woman at war with her world.
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What People Are Saying

Darryl Cherney
Today there are few progressive heroes left. But even the ones who have died must be killed again by literary assassins like Kate Coleman.
—Darryl Cherney, Earth First! colleague of Judi Bari
Cynthia Moss
Kate Coleman’s fascinating, well-written and fast-paced book tells a quintessential American story about a woman passionately driven by causes and the contradictions, heartache and outright danger that her beliefs and actions bring about. There is no sentiment here, no adulation, just an excellent portrait of a woman who played a key role in the more radical wing of the environmental movement. I highly recommend it, especially for any of us fighting our own causes.
—Cynthia Moss, author of Elephant Memories
Robert Bazell
Because Kate Coleman has made a journey of her own from committed activism to eloquent journalism, she is better able than anyone else to demystify the convoluted history of California's left-wing fringe. In this wonderfully written book she charts Judi Bari's transformation after her car-bombing from fiery activist and abused wife to environmentalist hero and feminist martyr. It is an amazing story, and Coleman tells it with grace, wit, and compassion.
—Robert Bazell, Chief Science Correspondent, NBC News
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781893554740
  • Publisher: Encounter Books
  • Publication date: 12/28/2004
  • Pages: 247
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.44 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Kate Coleman is a veteran investigative reporter who has covered the Black Panther Party, the counter culture and California politics for The Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, Salon, Mother Jones and other publications.
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2008

    lousy smear job

    fbi agents were found guilty and charged for framing judi bari. this was written to try turn around public perception of fbi who are not always the good guys.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2005

    The Emperess Has No Clothes

    Kate Coleman deftly introduces the reader to the fictional life of Judi Bari. Bari was a woman who sought fame and fortune posturing as an environmental activist in the late 80's and early 1990's in northern California. Coleman's brilliant expose shows Bari as a hypocrite of the worst sort. This book is a shocker

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2005

    Coleman separates fact from fiction, exposes the sordid reality from the mythology

    Kate Coleman weaves an engrossing tale - a story of a 1990 car bombing in Oakland, California which the victim, Judi Bari, sought to portray as a plot by the government and timber interests to eliminate Bari as an environmental activist. Coleman's wonderfully sourced reseach leads the reader to consider the possibilities that Bari is far more likely to have been the victim of domestic violence at the hands of an ex-husband rather than as a target of the FBI. The author shows Bari as a sometimes brilliant strategist who at the same time compartmentalized her own personal life and played off those who surrounded her against one another.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2005

    Taking on mythology

    Kate Coleman is to be commended for examining the true story of Judi Bari, a shameless self promoter who posed as a 'nonviolent activist' while plotting murder. Coleman goes into the complex world of Bari who sought fame, power, and personal fortune to the exclusion of any lasting or meaningful environmental legacy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2005

    Did Mike Sweeney bomb Judi Bari?

    I read with great interest Kate Coleman's recent book on Judi Bari. The book makes a compelling case for reopening the investigation of the bombing that crippled Bari as well as offers a sympathetic view of the complex and legendary icon that was to become a vicarious diva for many activists. As a person who knew both Bari and especially her former husband, Mike Sweeney, Coleman's book offers insight into both Bari's followers as well as her personal life. The book also poses many questions regarding the role of Bari's former husband, Mike Sweeney,in the bombing of Bari's vehicle that left the radical diva disabled. For those who wish to compare and contrast interpretations of history and political points of view in the interest of good critical thinking; this book is a must. Dr. Danny Weil, ESQ. The Critical Thinking Institute

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2005

    Inaccurate and Misleading

    I've been interested in Earth First! for a long time, so I got this book right away.  I was immediately struck by some of the extreme statements and allegations about Judi Bari that I'd never seen before, so I did some fact-checking.  It seems like most of the book is just made-up instead of being factual.  Example:  the author's claim that Bari turned her back on forestry activism in favor of working on her FBI lawsuit and playing the role of martyr.  All of us on the North Coast remember Bari's leadership of the huge Save the Headwaters Campaign, which continued until she died of cancer.  And the whole rest of the book is like that.  It's fiction that uses real peoples' names.    

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2005

    Bad Fiction

    Kate Coleman's 'Secret Wars of Judi Bari: A Car Bomb, the Fight for the Redwoods, and the End of Earth First' claims to be a biography, but is so fraught with errors from the title to the final paragraph that it should not even be classified as nonfiction. As Co-Coordinator of the Mendocino Environmental Center, I worked with Judi Bari for ten years, and can personally attest to many of the errors. Ms. Coleman did not interview me; she did not interview members of Judi Bari's family, nor many of her closest associates. Nor, apparently, did Ms. Coleman do any fact checking. Even if Ms. Coleman did not want to interview those closest to Judi Bari, many of the errors could have been avoided by conducting Lexus / Nexus searches or Google searches. Not only are there many documentable errors, the whole tone of the book is derivisive and mean-spirited. Judi Bari's legacy lives on despite the car-bomb attempt on her life, despite losing her battle with the cancer that took her from us far too early - and her legacy will live on despite Kate Coleman's (bad) fictionalized account of her life.

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