The Romance of American Communism

The Romance of American Communism

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Writer and critic Vivian Gornick’s long-unavailable classic exploring how left politics gave depth and meaning to American life.

“Before I knew that I was Jewish or a girl I knew that I was a member of the working class.” So begins Vivian Gornick’s exploration of how the world of socialists, communists, and progressives in the 1940s and 1950s created a rich, diverse world where ordinary men and women felt their lives connected to a larger human project.

Now back in print after its initial publication in 1977 and with a new introduction by the author, The Romance of American Communism is a landmark work of new journalism, profiling American Communist Party members and fellow travelers as they joined the Party, lived within its orbit, and left in disillusionment and disappointment as Stalin’s crimes became public.

From the immigrant Jewish enclaves of the Bronx and Brooklyn and the docks of Puget Sound to the mining towns of Kentucky and the suburbs of Cleveland, over a million Americans found a sense of belonging and an expanded sense of self through collective struggle. They also found social isolation, blacklisting, imprisonment, and shattered hopes. This is their story--an indisputably American story.

Reviews

  • Socialists often get caricatured as ideologues and automatons, zealots without an inner life. Gornick’s Romance may be the best book ever written about that inner life. Yes, Gornick was talking about members of the Communist Party, but she was really talking about everyone in the socialist tradition who was fundamentally committed to creating a world without capitalism, why they saw their personal destiny bound up with that struggle, and what happened to them when they were confronted with its crushing disappointments and terrible realities.

    Corey RobinNew York Magazine
  • When we think of the Communist Party USA, we often associate it with the drab and monolithic “Marxist-Leninism” of the Soviet Union. But Gornick uncovers the rich network of social institutions, clubs, and dance halls that defined membership in the party for tens of thousands of Americans in the 1930s and ‘40s.

    Bhaskar SunkaraNew York Magazine
  • Whatever Gornick’s subject, her writing relies on direct, lived experience.

    Elaine BlairThe Paris Review