Lazarre (Inheritance, 2011, etc.) remembers her Communist Party organizer father and how she grew up in his “powerful, endearing, [and] at times intimidating” shadow.
Romanian-born Jewish radical activist William Lazarre was dedicated to “justice, human equality [and] dignity.” In this moving memoir, Lazarre’s daughter, the distinguished author of both fiction and nonfiction, recalls his life by drawing on memory, court documents, and data from his FBI file. As a young immigrant in 1920s Philadelphia, Lazarre gave—and was arrested for—speeches about worker revolution. Yet imprisonment did not quell his zeal for communism and social justice. During the 1930s, he deepened his involvement in the American Communist Party and went to Europe to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Upon his return, he worked as a section leader for the party. However, after World War II, already doubting the promises made by Soviet communism, Lazarre saw cracks emerge in American Communist Party leadership. Between 1948 and 1951, he lost his brother and then his wife. Then the party that had commanded his loyalty called him up on charges for “failures of obedience” while the House Un-American Activities Committee forced him to testify and the FBI tried to recruit him as an informer. The man the author remembers was one who commanded her respect but sometimes earned her scorn; he also revealed his frailty in bouts of severe depression. Feeling unable to measure up to her “mother’s elegance” and despite the rebellion implicit in her ideological choice of Freudianism and feminism over Marxism, she was always the daughter who sought to make “daddy love [her].” Through the family she started with a black civil rights activist, the author was finally able to begin healing their relationship by revealing the degree to which she shared her father’s vision for a humane, egalitarian world. 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.