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A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  38 ratings  ·  15 reviews
In a riveting book with powerful resonance today, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss captures the pervasive fear and paranoia that gripped America during the Red Scare of the 1950s through the chilling yet affirming story of his family’s ordeal, from blacklisting to vindication.

Elliott Maraniss, David’s father, a WWII veteran who had commanded an all-black compan
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published May 14th 2019 by Simon Schuster
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3.84  · 
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 ·  38 ratings  ·  15 reviews

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Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe

In the years between my father's retirement and his recovery of grief over the early loss of my mother, he bought an electric typewriter and wrote his memoirs. Dad took his pages to the office supply store and printed and bound them to distribute among his family and friends. Dad was very proud to know people enjoyed reading about his childhood growing up during the Depression in
Bob H
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the author's tribute to his father, Elliott Maraniss, whose life and times were epic, from the Depression-era college society of leftist students (some of his companions went on to serve in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish civil war), to the U.S. Army in WWII -- where he commanded an all-African American company) and on to a postwar career in newspapers, a career blighted by the anti-Communist witch hunts. Elliott Maraniss' travails before the House Un-American Activities Commi ...more
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A Good American Family is biographer David Maraniss’ look at a subject very close to his heart: his father, and the Red Scare and resulting blacklisting that embroiled the family in 1952 because of Elliott Maraniss’ past as a Communist Party of America member. Perhaps because of the lack of distance that the author’s intimacy with his father inevitably leads to, Elliott Maraniss never emerged for me as a fully developed character—his motivations and inner life remained a bit murky throughout. Th ...more

“Are you now or have you ever been . . . ? The assumption was that a party member was indisputably unpatriotically un-American.” (p. 6).

Something about the writing of David Maraniss’s family memoir, A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father made it somewhat difficult for me to read. That said, the close-in perspective of the fear and paranoia wrought by the House Un-American Activities Committee [HUAC] (the name, itself, sounds so un-Americ
John Wood
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
The USA, the land of the free. How free are we? The author tells us about his father's experiences with the HUAC (House Unamerican Activities Committee) in Detroit and how he was fired and forced to move all over because of the committee's actions. The McCarthy Era is only one of many times that the American Dream was sorely tested and civil liberties were taken away. Despite his father's devotion to his country and service in WWII, he was closely watched by the FBI, informed on and called in fr ...more
Floyd Williams
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an eye-opening book about an American family that was affected by the Red Scare of the 1940's and 1950's. David Maraniss's father was accused of being a communist by the House Un-American Activities Committee. The book traces the effects of this on the Maraniss family and sets the larger context of the Red Scare. Growing up in the 1950s, I had some sense of what was going on but had no concept of the personal toll this took on patriotic American families. It is not beyond belief to think ...more
Jennifer Warnock
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
interesting and well-written...i want to read his biographies of Barak Obama and Bill Clinton now.. Biography & Memoir
Accomplished biographers seek to understand the ages when their subjects lived and the forces that shaped their lives. The goal of a biography is to measure individuals by the pattern of their lives. Biographers researching men and women often find that they begin as strangers and ultimately become familiar figures.

A GOOD AMERICAN FAMILY is a different biography because the subject was intimately familiar to the author at the start of his work. Elliott Maraniss was David Maraniss’ father, called
Jun 12, 2019 added it
Rating: 3.5

A Good American Family is Pulitzer Prize winner David Marianiss's biography of his father, a journalist caught up in the Red Scare of the early 1950s and blacklisted after an appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee. The first 2/3 of the book is in essence a political biography of his father, Elliot Maraniss, who was in fact an intellectual and economic communist and member of the Communist Party of the US during his student days at the University of Michigan, most
Jill Meyer
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Author David Maraniss, a noted writer of biographies and other works of non-fiction, tells the story of his family when his father , Elliott, was called before the HUAC in the early 1950's. The reprucussions of being charged with being "un-American" lasted through out his father's life and is being felt by his children. Maraniss tells his family's story, taking no prisoners in his tough accounting of how both his father's family, the Maranisses and his mother's family, the Cummins, have been "g ...more
patricia j patane
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting book. Author was born into the same time period I was but lived a completely different life. His parents were denounced and hounded during the McCarthy years. Not a lot of books on this subject and he gives some rather interesting details like Pete Seegers questioning before the HUAC as well as Arthur Miller's. He also writes about the American involvement in the Spanish Civil War another subject not covered much in my American History classes.
Reading this made me wish I had my pare
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, 2019
Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This is a fascinating look back at the time of the Red Scare in the US, when McCarthy and his ilk made up rules as they went along, ordaining how patriotism should be - and Maraniss tells the story compellingly, showing how his family, and many others, was impacted purely by exercising their freedom of thought. Frightening, not least in view of recent political developments...

The only criticism I might h
Deborah Shaw
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Having a hard time putting into words what I thought while reading the book. All I can say is as a country we have grown since the days of the Red Scare but unfortunately still have a ways to go. This is the kind of history that should be taught!
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-to-review
Maraniss' voice is compelling. The narrative that he writes introduces a piece of history that becomes personal and relatable as he relates his family's experience.
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David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post and the author of four critically acclaimed and bestselling books, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton, They Marched Into Sunlight War and Peace, Vietnam and America October 1967, and Clemente The Passion and Grace of Baseballs Last Hero. He is also the author of The Clinto ...more