The Communist and the Communist′s Daughter

A Memoir

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 6 illustrations Published: September 2017

Author: Jane Lazarre

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs, Religious Studies

In a letter to his baby grandson, Bill Lazarre wrote that "unfortunately, despite the attempts by your grandpa and many others to present you with a better world, we were not very successful." Born in 1902 amid the pogroms in Eastern Europe, Lazarre dedicated his life to working for economic equality, racial justice, workers' rights, and a more just world. He was also dedicated to his family, especially his daughters, whom he raised as a single father following his wife’s death. In The Communist and the Communist's Daughter Jane Lazarre weaves memories of her father with documentary materials—such as his massive FBI file—to tell her father's fascinating history as a communist, a Jew, and a husband, father, and grandfather.

Soon after immigrating to the United States as a young man, Lazarre began a long career as a radical activist, being convicted of sedition, holding leadership positions in the American Communist Party, fighting in the Spanish Civil War, organizing labor unions, testifying in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and resisting the FBI’s efforts to recruit him as an informant. Through periods of heroism and deep despair Lazarre never abandoned his ideals or his sustained faith in the fundamental goodness of people.

This is also the story of Jane as she grew up, married an African American civil rights activist, and became a mother and a writer while coming to terms with her father’s legacy. She recounts her arguments with her father over ideology, but also his profound influence on her life. Throughout this poignant and beautifully written work, Jane examines memory, grief, love, and conscience while detailing the sacrifices, humanity, and unwavering convictions of a man who worked tirelessly to create a brighter future for us all.


"Reflective and intelligent, her narrative not only chronicles the life of a complex man; it also celebrates the power of memory and love. A poignantly lyrical memoir of family and politics." — Kirkus Reviews

"The Communist and the Communist’s Daughter tells the story of a family, of the struggle between old and new homelands, and of a man trying to balance his idealism with a reality that falls short of it." — Jeff Fleischer, Foreword Reviews

"[A] collection of materials, insights, incidents, and imagery formed into a brilliant whole by Jane Lazarre's skill and patience. It ought to be a classic of twentieth century American life." — Meredith Sue Willis, Books for Readers

"This is a memoir rich in intelligent reflection of an aspect of US political history that receives little airing. It's an elegantly written and moving account." — John Green, Morning Star

"Jane Lazare has written a fascinating, intensely personal book about history, family, and the Communist Party in the United States." — Esther Cohen, Monthly Review

"Jane Lazarre intertwines the story of her father with a part of the story of hers and explores the complicated relationship between them and the strong emotions that accompany this relationship.  It is an intelligent and engaging concept, it makes you keep reading." — Maquina Lectora blog

"Making an account of one's self through memoir is hard enough, why would anyone want to tackle combining their own with that of another's? Lazarre does so to pay tribute to her father, to show herself and the world his noble intentions even though he was a flawed human being, as we all are. Ultimately, she has learned through the writing, he is so much a part of her, and she a part of him, whether that's in their living or their passing on." — Tomie Anne Bitton, American Book Review

"Lazarre paints a convincing portrait of her father as a committed idealist capable of great love – for his family and comrades, and also for those unknown to him personally, but whose lives he hoped to better." — Michael Petrou, Labour History Review

“I found this an intriguing, clear-eyed look at a corner of history, the Communist experience in America, that is usually just righteously condemned—or, occasionally, romanticized. Jane Lazarre’s vision of it is more subtle: she lived in this world as a child, and now looks back on it as a thoughtful adult.” — Adam Hochschild

"Reading Jane Lazarre's beautifully written memoir I was quickly drawn into her Jewish, immigrant left-wing family life. The story is filled with longings for the old world of Kishinev and the dreams for a perfected new world of justice and equality. The daughter writes of her father as a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, a single father pursued by the FBI, and called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. She brings to life their love and conflicts and his few years as a proud grandfather. She conveys the rich mixture of Yiddish language and Jewish history, the old world superstitions, the beauty and camaraderie of life in Greenwich Village of the 1950s, and centrally the deep love between a father and daughter. Her father's idealism and values are today central to the lives of her adult African American sons." — Rabbi Rachel Cowan, former director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality

"This extraordinary memoir captures the crazy, scary, intellectually heady experience of growing up with a single father who's a true believer and a daring Communist activist. You need not have lived through the Red Scare to appreciate the impact of deeply held politics on the dynamics of family life, the contemporary relevance of Jane Lazarre's personal story, and the lyrical grace with which she tells it." — Letty Cottin Pogrebin, author of Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate, and a founding editor of Ms. magazine

“Here, in these beautifully written pages, Jane Lazarre invites readers to join her on a difficult journey through memory, history, family, and self-discovery. This daughter's story of her father yields insight into our own, never-ending quest for love, justice, and understanding.” — Farah Jasmine Griffin


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Price: $29.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jane Lazarre is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons, Wet Earth and Dreams: A Narrative of Grief and Recovery, and The Mother Knot, all also published by Duke University Press, as well as the novels Inheritance and Some Place Quite Unknown. She has won awards for her fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Lazarre founded and directed the undergraduate writing program at Eugene Lang College at the New School for ten years and taught creative writing and literature there for twenty years. She has also taught at the City College of New York and Yale University. Lazarre lives in New York City.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Author's Note  ix
Acknowledgments  xi
Prologue  1
Part I. Beginnings
Chapter 1  11
Chapter 2  18
Part II. An American
Chapter 3  27
Chapter 4  34
Part III. Spain
Chapter 5  55
Chapter 6  58
Chapter 7  60
Chapter 8  74
Chapter 9  77
Part IV. A Bad Wind
Chapter 10  95
Chapter 11  101
Chapter 12  105
Chapter 13  110
Chapter 14  122
Chapter 15  125
Part V. The Un-Americans
Chapter 16  131
Chapter 17  138
Chapter 18  150
Part VI. The Mutilated World
Chapter 19  161
Chapter 20  172
Part VII. Endings
Chapter 21  189
Chapter 22  196
Chapter 23  202
Epilogue  205
Notes  211

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