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Red Diapers: GROWING UP IN THE COMMUNIST LEFT Paperback – September 1, 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In recent books, such as Lisa Michaels' Split [Je 1 98], authors in their 20s have described their "counterculture childhoods." This collection looks several decades farther back, gathering memoirs of "red diaper babies" whose parents were members or former members of the U.S. Communist Party or nonmembers involved in party-related activities. Some of the authors are relatively well known, like journalist Carl Bernstein and '60s activist Bettina Aptheker; however, most are noncelebrity children of rank-and-file party workers. They address several subjects, including patterns of life within their families, the impact of political persecution, and the ways they've dealt with their political heritage. The contributors "look back on their childhoods [the editors note] with varying mixtures of nostalgia, pride, confusion, anger, and pain" --as would almost any other grouping of nearly 50 memoirists. Yet the collection reflects some commonalities of experience; particularly, strong political and historical awareness, "an oppositional identity," and conviction that, together, individuals can accomplish change. Mary Carroll --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Runs the gamut, chronicling childhoods loved and hated, parents revered and feared, politics embraced and avoided. The book's 46 essays are lively and heartfelt. The mix brings forth an intensely moving collection of American histories." -- Eleanor J. Bader, Lilith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; First printing. edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252067258
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252067259
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #422,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This highly orginal book did not get the press it deserved when it was first published. It is a collection of brief, yet moving reminiscences written by "red diaper babies" whose parents had a connection -- some more than others -- with the "Movement". It is a definite "must read" for anyone who grew up in the fifties -- whether or not he or she wore red, pink or any other shade of diaper! -- whose parents did not share the prevailing political opinions of the times.
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And so it was with the children of the Communist Party members in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. These are accounts of the CP's baby boom generation and like that generation, many of them took very different lessons from their parents' lives and travelled very different paths. Almost all of the interviewees, even if they had attended the YCL or the summer camps, did not perservere past their teenage years in being Communists though all of them, retained basic concerns of social, gender, and economic justice. That thread ran true and is the underlying lesson to be taken from this diverse, very engrossing set of accounts. The children rejected the specific institutional vehicle of the parents' idealism, but they themselves continued the project in their varied ways. American communism was American- this can't be repeated often enough. The Draperian analysis that treated the CP-USA as a kind of pseudopod of international communism and inherently an alien intrusion into the American narrative, was deeply flawed but also deeply influential. Americans seeking ways to reform the conditions they existed in, experimented with all types of reform organizations, Communism was just one of them. But the Draperian view of a Stalin-led, disloyal set of subversives intent on creating a "Soviet America" permeated the culture from the 50's onward to the present and the red diaper children themselves grew up in a world that rejected the entirety of their parent's efforts. The children learned from the greater society that if a communist joined a union, they did not join, they "infiltrated".Read more ›
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-- the story of his life. I grew up small-town in the 50's when communists had horns. These people's childhoods were, compared to mine, like something from another planet. I didn't meet a socialist until I went to college. Looking back:
1. the risk of internal communist subversion causing an American communist revolution was equal to today's risk of America becoming a moslem state under sharia -- nil. However the USSR was a threat and terrorism is a threat.
2. the Communist Party USA allowed itself to become merely an arm of Soviet policy
3. the people in this book and their parents suffered from thuggish and illegal harassment from the US government
4. but I am very relieved that their political philosophy lost.
Being idealogs, they avoided any disconfirmatory facts. They were shocked in 1956 when Khrushchev told them that Stalin was a Bad Guy.

Most of the narrators look back with pride and wistfulness. Missing is any apology for supporting a system that caused mass murder, mass starvation, and Gulags.
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If I had read nothing but the introduction I would have been more than rewarded. For one who belongs to this select group it answered many questions I have had about some of my strange, interesting and frustrating characteristics, not too late in the 78 years of my life. I am grateful to the authors and wish i had discovered it sooner.
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By Hippo on April 12, 2013
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If you're looking for information on the American communist movement, there's plenty out there to read. This is a great read that showcases more than the happenings, but the perspectives and personal stories of those who grew up in it. I recommend it to everyone looking to know more than the McCarthy era propaganda on the topic.
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This is a unique anthology of memoirs of kids who grew up in the 40's and 50's, in the "pink" shadow of the American Communist Party. Most of the nearly fifty contributors of this book are children of Eastern Jewish immigrants. Here are their fascinating memories: Joyous ones of Pioneer Camp, The Daily Worker, public rallies in support of women, workers, minorities, and disarmament. Fearful recollections of the Rosenberg executions, McCartyism, clandestine CP meetings, FBI surveillance, and the dreaded knock on the door in the middle of the night. Disillusioned remembrances of Khrushchev's denouncement of Stalin and the devastating revelation that "Uncle Joe" and the "Workers' Paradise" of the USSR were not what American Communists naively believed. Few of these writers still belong to the CP. A small number speak resentfully of parents who put the Party before family, exposing their children to bigotry and violence or to the anxiety and deprivation of a life "underground". The Party's over. But the great majority of these writers proudly retain their strong leftist values and ideals, and continue to practice the social activism instilled during childhood. This book gives a human and humane dimension to a misled but often wrongfully vilified American political movement.
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