“The Sins of the Father Laid Upon the Children”
Many of us are socially conscious but not as involved in politics much as we think we should be. The activists in our community are our heroes. They commit their time, energy and resources to defending the values we hold dear. However, while these citizens dedicate their lives to doing good, they are often blind to the effect their actions, particularly those that are controversial or dangerous, might have on their children.
THE SHOCK OF LEARNING MY PARENTS HAD BEEN COMMUNISTS
I was 13-years-old in June 1955 when I learned that my parents Herbert and Frances Rice Fuchs, had been Communists in the 1930s and ‘40s. At that time, they were working in FDR’s New Deal. My parents joined the Party convinced it was the best way to fight for labor reform. Unfortunately, they did not anticipate the backlash that would erupt from the Right in the McCarthy Era Red Scare.
Every school-aged child in the 1950s was taught that communism was our mortal enemy. Learning that my parents had been Communists was like discovering they had committed some egregious crime. The shock of their revelation, the events that followed my father’s testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee and his subsequent blacklist from teaching law, reverberated through my teenage years and into my adulthood. After my parents died, I knew I had to research the facts of their early political life. I had to come to terms with it and heal.
LEGACY OF A FALSE PROMISE: A DAUGHTER’S RECKONING and THE COURIER: DEATH OF AN ILLUSION
I have chronicled my experiences in a memoir, Legacy of a False Promise: A Daughter’s Reckoning, published by University of Alabama Press in 2009. My novel The Courier: Death of an Illusion, published by Waldenwood Press and available on Amazon, also touches on the inter-generational effect of political activism on the next generation.
OTHER RED DIAPER BABY MEMOIRS
My memoir is different from those of other Red Diaper Babies who wrote proudly of their parents’ resistance to the “imperialist American establishment.” My father ended up cooperating with the Government and naming names. Nevertheless, I have always felt a profound connection with other children of the old Left and have resonated to their stories. Here are a few of my favorite Red Diaper Baby books.
We Are Your Sons by Michael and Robert Meeropol
Michael and Robert Meeropol, sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, are the most famous of the children of the old Left. Their stories convey how unspeakably they suffered when their parents were accused of conspiracy to commit espionage and were later executed by the U.S Government.
Loyalties by Carl Bernstein.
In this memoir, Bernstein, of Bernstein and Woodward fame, agonizes over whether or not his parents Alfred and Sylvia were card carrying Communists and whether they subscribed to the Party’s alleged goal of overthrowing the government.
View from Alger’s Window by Tony Hiss.
New Deal lawyer Alger Hiss was accused of having been a Communist and a spy for the Soviets by Whittaker Chambers, an editor at Time. Until his death, Hiss denied this charge. In this memoir Tony Hiss, Alger’s son, wrestles with the dissonance between the father he knew and the man accused of disloyalty to the government.
In My Mother’s House by Kim Chernin
Kim Chernin’s memoir uncovers what it was like for a daughter who longs for her mother’s attention but cannot compete with her mother’s dedication to the cause of communism.
An Un-American Childhood by Anne Kimmage
One day, when Anne Kimmage was eight-years-old, her parents uprooted their family, leaving New York abruptly and going underground in Prague. Anne was forced to deny her American identity.
Though each of these writers has conveyed a vastly different experience, all of their stories provide a window into the difficulties that can occur for children of political activists.