I hope you will read A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father.

David Maraniss, associate editor at the Washington Post, has written an intimate story of his family in Detroit, Michigan, where the House Un-American Committee set up shop after World War II.

Elliot Maraniss was a newspaper man through and through. But he was always a man who accepted issues related to the perceived underdog: race relations, economic disparity, social justice for the poor and dispossessed. Because of his world outlook, Elliot Maraniss migrated to the Communist Party in Detroit, and worked in his time off for the local Daily Worker.

“Think of this story as a wheel. The hearing in Room 740 is the hub where all the spokes connect,” starts the story. A grandmother who needed the extra few bucks, took the job of informer and rose in the ranks of the CP. She is the one who sent the member list of the Detroit branch of the CP to members of the House Un-American Committee (HAUC). But the story is so much more than committee meetings of the HAUC in Detroit. It is the story of tentacles of the committee members, their memberships in the Ku Klux Clan, their work against voting rights, their work against the New Deal.

Elliot and his brother-in-law Bob Cummins both volunteered for the war in Spain in the 1930s, and then again, against Nazism in 1941. They spent five years in Europe and the Pacific.

So the story is about what makes a person American. This reminds me of when I visited the Soviet Union in 1971, as part of a semester abroad. We were at a bazaar in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, when a young soldier approached our group to ask from where we came. In our elementary Russian, we said, “America.” He asked, “Brazil?” Indeed, America is two continents.