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In this inspirational and moving memoir—reminiscent of When Breath Becomes Air and The Bright Hour—activist Ady Barkan explores his life with ALS and how his diagnosis gave him a profound new understanding of his commitment to social justice for all. Ady Barkan loved taking afternoon runs on the California coast and holding his newborn son, Carl. But one day, he noticed a In this inspirational and moving memoir—reminiscent of When Breath Becomes Air and The Bright Hour—activist Ady Barkan explores his life with ALS and how his diagnosis gave him a profound new understanding of his commitment to social justice for all. Ady Barkan loved taking afternoon runs on the California coast and holding his newborn son, Carl. But one day, he noticed a troubling weakness in his hand. At first, he brushed it off as carpal tunnel syndrome, but after a week of neurological exams and two MRIs, he learned the cause of the problem: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. At age 32, Ady was given just three to four years to live. Yet despite the devastating diagnosis, he refused to let his remaining days go to waste. Eyes to the Wind is a rousing memoir featuring intertwining storylines about determination, perseverance, and how to live a life filled with purpose and intention. The first traces Ady’s battle with ALS: how he turned the initial shock and panic from his diagnosis into a renewed commitment to social justice—not despite his disability but because of it. The second, told in flashbacks, illustrates Ady’s journey from a goofy political nerd to a prominent figure in the enduring fight for equity and justice who is “willing to give [his] last breath to save our democracy” (CNN). From one of today’s most vocal advocates for social justice, Eyes to the Wind is an evocative and unforgettable memoir about activism, dedication, love, and hope.


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In this inspirational and moving memoir—reminiscent of When Breath Becomes Air and The Bright Hour—activist Ady Barkan explores his life with ALS and how his diagnosis gave him a profound new understanding of his commitment to social justice for all. Ady Barkan loved taking afternoon runs on the California coast and holding his newborn son, Carl. But one day, he noticed a In this inspirational and moving memoir—reminiscent of When Breath Becomes Air and The Bright Hour—activist Ady Barkan explores his life with ALS and how his diagnosis gave him a profound new understanding of his commitment to social justice for all. Ady Barkan loved taking afternoon runs on the California coast and holding his newborn son, Carl. But one day, he noticed a troubling weakness in his hand. At first, he brushed it off as carpal tunnel syndrome, but after a week of neurological exams and two MRIs, he learned the cause of the problem: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. At age 32, Ady was given just three to four years to live. Yet despite the devastating diagnosis, he refused to let his remaining days go to waste. Eyes to the Wind is a rousing memoir featuring intertwining storylines about determination, perseverance, and how to live a life filled with purpose and intention. The first traces Ady’s battle with ALS: how he turned the initial shock and panic from his diagnosis into a renewed commitment to social justice—not despite his disability but because of it. The second, told in flashbacks, illustrates Ady’s journey from a goofy political nerd to a prominent figure in the enduring fight for equity and justice who is “willing to give [his] last breath to save our democracy” (CNN). From one of today’s most vocal advocates for social justice, Eyes to the Wind is an evocative and unforgettable memoir about activism, dedication, love, and hope.

30 review for Eyes to the Wind: A Memoir of Love and Death, Hope and Resistance

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dan Petegorsky

    In a just world Ady Barkan would live long enough to see a new president award him the Medal of Freedom.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Moira

    Ady is a contributor to one of my favorite podcasts. When the host of the pod guarantees you’ll like the book or he will personally refund you if you don’t it’s obviously something worth checking out. His story could be sad, and while it is an emotional roller coaster it’s rather beautiful. His continued activism is awe inspiring and makes me admire him even more. Ady has an amazing life and I hope he gets to make many memories with his family.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Ever since I've been aware of Ady Barkan, I've really admired his story and the way he has passionately devoted himself to activism in the face of his own debilitating illness. This book starts with Ady's devastating diagnosis of ALS, just several months after he and his wife Rachael welcomed their first child, Carl. The book follows the progression of his disease, as he loses most of ability to move or speak over the next 2.5 years, but at the same time he finds ways to use his disease as a too Ever since I've been aware of Ady Barkan, I've really admired his story and the way he has passionately devoted himself to activism in the face of his own debilitating illness. This book starts with Ady's devastating diagnosis of ALS, just several months after he and his wife Rachael welcomed their first child, Carl. The book follows the progression of his disease, as he loses most of ability to move or speak over the next 2.5 years, but at the same time he finds ways to use his disease as a tool for activism and to fight for progressive policies. We also get a look back at the most important parts of his pre-disease activism, which make it clear that Ady was always someone who had a passion for working to ensure a better life for everyone. His ALS, however, made that fight all the more urgent and poignant. I can't say enough good things about this book and about Ady. I am in awe of his passion and activism, and it turns out he's also a really good writer. This memoir is candid and vulnerable and funny, and conveys both his deep sorrow and a seed of hope for our collective future. It's hard to read sometimes. What happened to him, like so many things that happen every day, is deeply unfair and painful. And despite his deep commitment to the cause, he doesn't always win the fights he engages in. Candidates he campaigned for lost, Kavanaugh got confirmed, and our democracy is still in trouble. But Ady is never afraid to get caught trying and he still believes his work is moving us toward a better place. So much feels so grim right now, and I desperately hope he's right. He made me think a lot about what I can contribute to the world as well. There's so much more I could say about this book, but I think I will just say READ IT! Highly recommend the audiobook--Bradley Whitford's narration is an excellent vehicle for Ady's story.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Abbie Olson

    Love Ady. Love Pod Save America. Loved the Bradley Whitford narration of the audiobook.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jodie (That Happy Reader)

    Ady Barkan is a lawyer and political activist who felt in 2016 at the age of 32 that life couldn't get any better. He and his wife Rachael had professional careers that they loved and a newborn son, Carl. But then came Ady's inconceivable diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), a disease which causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. Barkan learns that while each patient has their own disease trajectory, most ALS patients will die within 3-4 years. This book articulates Barkan Ady Barkan is a lawyer and political activist who felt in 2016 at the age of 32 that life couldn't get any better. He and his wife Rachael had professional careers that they loved and a newborn son, Carl. But then came Ady's inconceivable diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), a disease which causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. Barkan learns that while each patient has their own disease trajectory, most ALS patients will die within 3-4 years. This book articulates Barkan's journey: an extraordinary man with an exceptional career. Throughout the book, Barkan provides an articulate, meaningful and thought-provoking description of his life leading up to his diagnosis and the time since. He imparts the obvious grief and panic felt with a diagnosis of a terminal illness, and provides intense insight into the challenges of dealing with a life where additional loss is felt weekly. Despite the ramifications of ALS, Barkan continues his work as a political activist fighting against the political changes turning back the clock on American democracy. The achievements of Barkan, especially in the context of his terminal illness, are inspirational, motivating and memorable. This is one of those books which will stay in my heart for the rest of my life. I wish to thank Netgalley and Atria books for the opportunity to read this memorable book in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    rosa guac

    truly all the way fucked up 😭 how does one find power and such profound poignancy in their lives after such a harrowing diagnosis such as ALS? ady explores the unfortunate power that als has given him that allows him to elevate his positionality as an activist in the fight towards a transformative, progressive and inspiring future. this memoir was so moving and uncovered the nuances of the various pieces of what organizing entails from the streets to the policy makers. it was a humanizing journey truly all the way fucked up 😭 how does one find power and such profound poignancy in their lives after such a harrowing diagnosis such as ALS? ady explores the unfortunate power that als has given him that allows him to elevate his positionality as an activist in the fight towards a transformative, progressive and inspiring future. this memoir was so moving and uncovered the nuances of the various pieces of what organizing entails from the streets to the policy makers. it was a humanizing journey into ady's life, struggles, and joys.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Angelique

    This book review is going to be a little bit sentimental. I knew Ady in High School. He's a hard person to forget. Whether he was mocking me for thinking Dante was 'awesome' or getting a lift in his 'caddy bo baddy', he was a force to be reckoned with. Since finding out about his ALS, I thought about him often. After watching publicly what he's been and is doing, I think of him even more. He is absolutely America's most important activist. And he's dying. This book is an excellent telling of both This book review is going to be a little bit sentimental. I knew Ady in High School. He's a hard person to forget. Whether he was mocking me for thinking Dante was 'awesome' or getting a lift in his 'caddy bo baddy', he was a force to be reckoned with. Since finding out about his ALS, I thought about him often. After watching publicly what he's been and is doing, I think of him even more. He is absolutely America's most important activist. And he's dying. This book is an excellent telling of both the rambunctious person that I and many know. And my god, the chutzpah! I found it hard to put down. After reading for hours, I was glad to read he wrote something like 'it's time to turn off my brain', which was a nice place to stop and go to sleep. There really is no other like him and his story reads like fiction, where at any moment things could go horribly wrong and somehow don't. A variety of kismet, chutzpah, diligence and force enacting great change. I especially loved that every story was annotated by whatever he was eating or drinking. And that Bernie Sanders gave him the most awkward hug ever. Even if you don't know Ady, you'll be gripped and moved by his story. And it's a good reminder to keep working and keep living in the moment. Thank you for sharing, Ady.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    Ady Barkan is an amazing individual in the way he has pursued and tackled life after a horrific terminal diagnosis. This book however was not what I was expecting. It is much more a memoir of Ady's life as a political activist than a memoir relating to his disease (I was expecting more of the latter due to the comparison to When Breathe Becomes Air, which I loved). Although I truly admire him for his strength, perseverance and passion I find his political views way to polarizing in a time when I Ady Barkan is an amazing individual in the way he has pursued and tackled life after a horrific terminal diagnosis. This book however was not what I was expecting. It is much more a memoir of Ady's life as a political activist than a memoir relating to his disease (I was expecting more of the latter due to the comparison to When Breathe Becomes Air, which I loved). Although I truly admire him for his strength, perseverance and passion I find his political views way to polarizing in a time when I feel we need to find a way to pull our country together. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me an early release in exchange for an honest and fair review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    So grateful I got to see him speak at school last week. My favorite quote is still “it is only by refusing to accept the complacency of previous generations that the impossible becomes reality.”

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jenifer Jacobs

    Thank you, Ady, for your activism, hard work, and brutal honestly. I am hopeful and invigorated to continue the resistance, and am filled up with information and motivation, thanks to you. I am broken hearted for you and your family, and I hope modern medicine and technology can keep you with us for many years to come. You are my hero.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Markela Parsons

    There were a few areas that focused heavily on policy and those were a bit dry. Other than that it’s a beautiful testament to the will to live a life worth something.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Isabelle

    After enjoying both When Breath Becomes Air and Chasing My Cure, I was excited to pic up Eyes to the Wind by Ady Barkan. I had a rather slow start with the first half but really felt like his story-telling abilities improved throughout the second half. Based on the description of the book, I expected to read more about his fight with ALS but the majority of the book was about his political activist life, which is very fascinating nonetheless. Before picking up this book, I didn't even think abou After enjoying both When Breath Becomes Air and Chasing My Cure, I was excited to pic up Eyes to the Wind by Ady Barkan. I had a rather slow start with the first half but really felt like his story-telling abilities improved throughout the second half. Based on the description of the book, I expected to read more about his fight with ALS but the majority of the book was about his political activist life, which is very fascinating nonetheless. Before picking up this book, I didn't even think about the fact that his story would be about all the happenings of the last couple of years but it was fascinating to read about his inside views of movements that many of us have only seen on social media and tv. While I would have liked to read more about his personal life, I still am grateful that I was able to read his story and wish him the best.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brian Jacobson

    I flat out wept happy and sad tears during multiple parts of this book. If Ady Barkan can keep up hope and resistance while living with ALS, we all can too. This book is so inspiring, 100% worth a read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mike Baudistel

    This will stick with me for the rest of my life. Ady Barkan has in so many ways captured what it means to be human. Although I knew of his story and had heard him speak about his ALS before, to read about the intimate details of his diagnosis, the progression of the disease, how it has affected his body, his marriage, and his relationship with his son Carl was at times almost too heartbreaking to continue reading. More than once I found myself putting the book down to wipe the tears from my eyes This will stick with me for the rest of my life. Ady Barkan has in so many ways captured what it means to be human. Although I knew of his story and had heard him speak about his ALS before, to read about the intimate details of his diagnosis, the progression of the disease, how it has affected his body, his marriage, and his relationship with his son Carl was at times almost too heartbreaking to continue reading. More than once I found myself putting the book down to wipe the tears from my eyes as I thought about how I might handle being dealt the cards that Ady has. But then comes the hope, Ady's hope, his understanding that while he cannot change his ALS, he can use the time he has left to enact real change on the world around him, to fight back against the injustice and the inequality that has become normalized in our society. This book is a force of pure power, love, and will against what at times feels like crushing darkness. I hold out the hope that medical advancements might someday save Ady, offer him some relief, or at the very least offer him some more time. But I know that if this terrible disease does take his life, it won't take his spirit. That will continue to live on in everyone that his words have touched. Ady Barkan is an America Hero!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Cunningham

    I came to know about Ady Barkan through his fight for Medicare for All, and I'm deeply appreciative of his decision to use his last precious years to fight on behalf of marginalized people. His story is devastating and demonstrates the cosmic injustice that comes with being a human on earth. This was also an interesting look behind the liberal democratic activist curtain; I naively didn't realize how carefully planned many of the viral encounters with senators we see are. Selfishly, I would've l I came to know about Ady Barkan through his fight for Medicare for All, and I'm deeply appreciative of his decision to use his last precious years to fight on behalf of marginalized people. His story is devastating and demonstrates the cosmic injustice that comes with being a human on earth. This was also an interesting look behind the liberal democratic activist curtain; I naively didn't realize how carefully planned many of the viral encounters with senators we see are. Selfishly, I would've liked more reflection from the author and less recounting of his activism, but that's completely personal preference.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Angela Juline

    Thank you to my daughter, Anna, for introducing me to the activism of Ady Barkan. He is an amazing individual. The tears really flowed when I got to the epilogue - when he talks about losing his voice...too much. "Activism is precisely about not accepting the tragedies of this world but rather insisting that we can reduce pain and prolong life. Social justice means creating a stable floor beneath our feet and then putting a safety net under that, to catch us if it suddenly vanishes..." (p. 276)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Danielle DellaCamera

    Ady Barkan details not just a personal fight with ALS, but a fight to maintain America’s democracy. He doesn’t sugar coat any of it and his voice is clear and unwavering on these pages. He chose to continue a fight and bring hope to a movement, even though ALS was deteriorating his body every step of the way.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michael Morgan

    This book, wow. Shaun King recommended it so I knew that I had to read it. It is an incredibly powerful memoir from Ady Barkan, an activist who is diagnosed with ALS. Named “America’s most powerful activist” by Politico, this memoir follows the reader along on Ady’s journey through the decline of his body due to ALS but also the passionate advocacy work and activism he does. Highly recommend!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ursula

    Ady Barkan is an amazing activist and a fighter. His memoir takes the reader on the journey of his activism and his fight to create a better health care system while raising awareness of the injustices in our country.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    Heart wrenching, beautiful, educational, motivational, all of these words describe Ady's book. It's an activists book, a book on family, on death, on dying, on living. It's an intimate glance into a 32 year old professional, husband, father with a diagnosis of ALS. The choices one makes when faced with certain death and the uncomfortable 'progression' of what that decline into death looks like. I truly enjoyed the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eden Whiteley

    Loved this book from start to finish- my only wish, as a curious speech pathologist myself, was to know more about Adys journey with his speech generating device from a clinical perspective.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    It’s impossible not to be equal parts inspired and heartbroken by Ady’s story. Leaving a legacy for those we leave behind is not something that should be top of mind for someone in the prime of their lives but the author finds himself in that horrible reality. Over a year or his life post ALS diagnosis, he shares honestly his despair, fury, hope and eventually, acceptance. Many years from now, when his young son and daughter are old enough to read this memoir, he will have accomplished what he s It’s impossible not to be equal parts inspired and heartbroken by Ady’s story. Leaving a legacy for those we leave behind is not something that should be top of mind for someone in the prime of their lives but the author finds himself in that horrible reality. Over a year or his life post ALS diagnosis, he shares honestly his despair, fury, hope and eventually, acceptance. Many years from now, when his young son and daughter are old enough to read this memoir, he will have accomplished what he set out to do.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Derek Lynch

    This memoir was painful and raw and beautiful. The way Ady connects his ALS diagnosis to the purpose and power of his work is truly inspirational.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tara Smith

    This was a beautiful memoir that reminds readers of the importance of appreciating the gift of life and health. I am truly inspired by Ady Barkan's dedication to making the lives of others better as his was declining. This memoir is likened to "When Breath Becomes Air" but I find Barkan's memoir to be more inspirational and certainly more educational.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kent Kirker

    I cried, I laughed, I cheered. Well done Ady! The audiobook is worth the listen. It’s narrated by Bradley Whitford, with some extras thrown in at the end.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Sullivan

    “We do what we can while we can. That was the motto that my father and I settled upon in the months after my diagnosis with ALS. And right then, that was what I could do: put my body there, in a shared struggle for shared liberation.” Ady Barkan is a hero of mine, a person only a few years older than I am who was dealt a rotten hand in life and has spent his dying years advocating for progressive causes, most notably Medicare for All. For those unfamiliar with his story, Ady had a promising career “We do what we can while we can. That was the motto that my father and I settled upon in the months after my diagnosis with ALS. And right then, that was what I could do: put my body there, in a shared struggle for shared liberation.” Ady Barkan is a hero of mine, a person only a few years older than I am who was dealt a rotten hand in life and has spent his dying years advocating for progressive causes, most notably Medicare for All. For those unfamiliar with his story, Ady had a promising career ahead of him as a lawyer/activist and was the proud father of a newborn son with his wife, Rachael, when he was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 32. Faced with the despair of a terminal illness, he sought to create meaning with the remainder of his time here. This is his memoir, which combines a telling of his personal battle with ALS and his trajectory as a progressive movement leader. Ady is a compelling writer. He’s funny, sharp and vulnerable. His book is full of thoughtful insights, like this one: “Every day since my diagnosis, I have struggled to know what to accept and what to resist. The Buddhist philosophers who got me through those devastating first months taught me to leave the mode of doing and enter the mode of being—to accept things as they are, rather than yearning for them to be otherwise. Such radical acceptance is in tension with my identity as a movement builder. Activism is precisely about not accepting the tragedies of this world but rather insisting that we can reduce pain and prolong life. Social justice means creating stable floor beneath our feet and then putting a safety net under that, to catch us if it suddenly vanishes: universal healthcare, affordable housing, a guaranteed good job. Being part of a progressive political movement is about fighting back and building toward a better future. ‘Acceptance’ is not part of our vocabulary.” My favorite chapter of the book comes at the end, featuring a collection of Ady’s recollections from the road, having lost his mobility and become increasingly dependent on the loving care of those around him. These musings are deeply vulnerable and poignant, and I’m grateful to Ady for opening himself up and sharing himself with all of us in the remainder of his short life. We are all better for it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jen Juenke

    I had seen a news story on Ady a few months ago. I can't even recall what news program it was for. I just knew that I wanted to learn more about Ady. Then I saw this book and decided to give it a read. I was not disappointed with reading this book. Ady has a passion and a drive that is hard to find in anyone alive. Yet even with ALS, Ady continues to fight for what he believes in. The book was pretty standard in its layout....one chapter focusing on activism and the next chapter on ALS. My real crit I had seen a news story on Ady a few months ago. I can't even recall what news program it was for. I just knew that I wanted to learn more about Ady. Then I saw this book and decided to give it a read. I was not disappointed with reading this book. Ady has a passion and a drive that is hard to find in anyone alive. Yet even with ALS, Ady continues to fight for what he believes in. The book was pretty standard in its layout....one chapter focusing on activism and the next chapter on ALS. My real critism is from the middle of the book. There was no clear cut idea on whether this was an activist chapter or an ALS chapter. I couldn't get a feel for if the ALS had already struck or not when he went to Wyoming to confront the Fed people. The other thing is the amount of names in the book. My eyes would blur over when he started naming names. I did not care who he ran into or who was leading what charge. I cared about his story, his fight, his beliefs. Other then the middle of the book, this is a top notch memoir and made me realize that I can do more then just VOTE, if Ady can go to protests, darn it, I can too!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maddison Wood

    I was really excited to read this since I find Ady Barkan extremely compelling, funny and a great activist, but I had to skim parts of this book for just being so,,,,wonky? Too detailed? He gets in the weeds a lot and jumps around non-chronologically and I just kept dozing off while reading. The last chapter and epilogue are very good, especially the part about how he believes in democracy almost like a religious belief. His honesty and vulnerability about ALS are also very good and brutally nec I was really excited to read this since I find Ady Barkan extremely compelling, funny and a great activist, but I had to skim parts of this book for just being so,,,,wonky? Too detailed? He gets in the weeds a lot and jumps around non-chronologically and I just kept dozing off while reading. The last chapter and epilogue are very good, especially the part about how he believes in democracy almost like a religious belief. His honesty and vulnerability about ALS are also very good and brutally necessary to read. Many bits of his activism were interesting and important, but it’s also hard to read a book about recent events when the outcomes have mostly been bad for Democrats. When you already know the ending to a story, and the ending sucks, it’s harder to read. Anyway, still love Ady and will definitely cry and feel bad about this review the day he dies. Wish more of his humor and intensity were in this book, less of what he ate for lunch with his friends in July of 2018.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Man, I love Ady and everything he stands for and what he’s done for the cause, but this wasn’t necessarily the book I was looking for to tell his story. I didn’t get through the whole book. I just lost interest. I get why he’s telling it. He’s done so much and the book are his career highlights and challenges in story form. But, it just wasn’t for me.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Hollerbach

    This was a lovely book- my only complaint is that it got a little bit dry at times. I often found myself skipping through the more dull (to me, anyway) anecdotes about politics and “the resistance” to get to the more meaningful passages about his relationship with his son and wife. Ady is an incredibly smart and inspiring person. It was a very interesting read.

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