In 'A Good American Family,' A Son Details How The Red Scare Upended His Father

Pulitzer prize-winning David Maraniss immerses himself in family records and interviews with relatives of others to piece together how his parents paid for supporting communism in their youth.

On Feb. 29, 1952, a gifted rewrite man at the Detroit Times named Elliott Maraniss received a subpoena from the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which was in town holding hearings on "Communism in the Detroit Area."

His newspaper summarily fired him.

Maraniss' appearance before the committee 12 days later was brief and one-sided. Maraniss refused to say whether he was a member of the Communist Party, citing his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. He brought a prepared statement defending his patriotism which the committee would not allow him to read.

It left Maraniss essentially unemployable. For five years, he moved his young family from city to city — in Madison, Wisconsin, a newspaper long critical of its U.S. senator.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR4 min read
'Space Invaders' Maps Pixelated Battles Onto Real-Life Conflict
The characters in Nona Fernández' new book are coming of age during Chile's brutal military dictatorship — and for them, video games are a useful framework for understanding the dangers all around.
NPR7 min read
Are You Failing At Failing? Author Neil Pasricha Says It's Time To Change The Narrative
Author Neil Pasricha spends one day per week so far off the grid even his wife doesn’t know where he is. On what he calls “untouchable days,” he refrains from connecting his computer to the internet or reaching for his smartphone. Unplugging from tec
NPR2 min read
Australia Wildfires: State Of Emergency Declared Over 'Catastrophic' Danger
Residents in the greater Sydney area have been warned of "catastrophic fire danger," the country's highest danger rating. At least three people have died in the fires in the state of New South Wales.