Monday, December 2, 2013

The Red Menace

On this day in 1954, the Senate censured Joe McCarthy. On this day in 1961, Fidel Castro declared he was a communist and that Cuba would be communist. On this day in 1975, the Pathet Lao (communists) took control of Vietenne and declared the Lao People's Democratic Republic.

So... let's talk about the communists!


The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy by James Cross Giblin. This biography of McCarthy details his rise to power with his list of known communists, and his downfall.

Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies by Marc Aronson. As head of the FBI, Hoover was obsessed with defeating communism.

Shut Up He Explained: The Memoir of a Blacklisted Kid by Kate Lardner. Lardner's mother was an actress, her step-father an Oscar-winning screenwriter. But he wouldn't answer questions asked of him by the House Committee on Un-American Activities and was sent to jail. When he got out, Lardner's parents were blacklisted and unable to work-- turning her life and world upside down.


Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem. Marina's mother is a prima ballerina, which gives her a more luxurious life than many others in the Soviet Union. But when her mother is detained by the KGB, Marina and her father flee to the US-- but it might not be far enough.

Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci. At the height of the Cold War, two teens--American ballet dancer Rose and Soviet diplomat-daughter Yrena spend an entire night out and about, enjoying New York City. Rose's entire world is dance-- she doesn't have friends or outside interests. Yrena is about to return to the USSR, hoping to taste one night of a typical American teenager before she does. The night will change both of them.

You Are One of Them by Elliot Holt. Jenny and Sarah are best friends and both write letters to the head of the USSR asking for peace. Sarah's letter goes unanswered, but Jenny becomes a media sensation and even travels to Moscow to meet the premier. Then Jenny and her parents die in a plane crash. Now an adult, Sarah gets a letter that says Jenny's death was a hoax, and travels to Russia to try to discover what happened to her best friend. Written for adults, older teens will like this one.


Escape from Communist Heaven by Dennis W. Dunivan. Viet Nguyen's father helped the American forces in Vietnam-- something that endangers the family after the Americans leave. Arrested while in the black market, he's sent to a labor camp for reeducation. Based on the life of Viet Nguyen.

Leaving Glorytown: One Boy's Struggle Under Castro by Eduardo F. Calcines. As he grows up in Castro's Cuba, Eduardo gets used to watching what you say, used to hunger, used to his father being gone at labor camp (for daring to apply for an exit visa), used to the jealousy as other families get their visa and his family is still stuck.

This is Paradise!: My North Korean Childhood by Hyok Kang with Phillipe Grangereau translated from the orginal French by Shaun Whiteside. Starting with daily life in North Korea, that start to show how repressive life is, Kang's story then moves to the horrors and hunger brought on the famine of the mid-1990s. Kang's family escapes to China and, eventually, South Korea. The South Korea section are particularly interesting and moving, as Kang starts to realize how brainwashed he was about the realities of life outside North Korea.

For more reading, check out our lists about Life Behind the Iron Curtain and Modern China. What else would you add?

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