The Communist and the Communist’s Daughter

Available as Hardcover



In a letter to his baby grandson, Bill Lazarre wrote that “unfortunately, despite the attempts by your grandpa and many others to present you with a better world, we were not very successful.” Born in 1902 amid the pogroms in Eastern Europe, Lazarre dedicated his life to working for economic equality, racial justice, workers’ rights, and a more just world. He was also dedicated to his family, especially his daughters, whom he raised as a single father following his wife’s death. In The Communist and the Communist’s Daughter Jane Lazarre weaves memories of her father with documentary materials—such as his massive FBI file—to tell her father’s fascinating history as a communist, a Jew, and a husband, father, and grandfather.


  • Pages: 240
  • Published: September 8, 2017


“Lazarre remembers her Communist Party organizer father and how she grew up in his “powerful, endearing, [and] at times intimidating” shadow. Romanian-born Jewish radical activist William Lazarre was dedicated to “justice, human equality [and] dignity.” In this moving memoir, Lazarre’s daughter, the distinguished author of both fiction and nonfiction, recalls his life by drawing on memory, court documents, and data from his FBI file. Reflective and intelligent, her narrative not only chronicles the life of a complex man; it also celebrates the power of memory and love. A poignantly lyrical memoir of family and politics.”
Kirkus Review

“I found this an intriguing, clear-eyed look at a corner of history, the Communist experience in America, that is usually just righteously condemned-or, occasionally, romanticized. Jane Lazarre’s vision of it is more subtle: she lived in this world as a child, and now looks back on it as a thoughtful adult.”
Adam Hochschild

“Here, in these beautifully written pages, Jane Lazarre invites readers to join her on a difficult journey through memory, history, family and self-discovery. This daughter’s story of her father yields insight into our own, never ending quest for love, justice, and understanding.”
Farah Jasmine Griffin

“Reading Jane Lazarre’s beautifully written memoir I was quickly drawn into her Jewish, immigrant left-wing family life. The story is filled with longings for the old world of Kishinev and the dreams for a perfected new world of justice and equality. The daughter writes of her father as a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, a single father pursued by the FBI, and called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. She brings to life their love and conflicts and his few years as a proud grandfather. She conveys the rich mixture of Yiddish language and Jewish history, the old world superstitions, the beauty and camaraderie of life in Greenwich Village of the 1950’s, and centrally the deep love between a father and daughter. Her father’s idealism and values are today central to the lives of her adult African American sons.”
Rabbi Rachel Cowan, Former Director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality

“This extraordinary memoir captures the crazy, scary, intellectually heady experience of growing up with a single father who’s a true believer and a daring Communist activist. You need not have lived through the Red Scare to appreciate the impact of deeply held politics on the dynamics of family life, the contemporary relevance of Jane Lazarre’s personal story, and the lyrical grace with which she tells it.”
Letty Cottin Pogrebin, author of Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate, and a founding editor of Ms. magazine

“Jane Lazarre here weaves a complex and fascinating memoir of her father, the life-long communist organizer and Spanish Civil War veteran, William Lazarre/Bill Lawrence. She writes movingly of her turbulent relationship with her father, of her rebellion during her teenage years, but also of his unstinting love for her. This book is an attempt to discover who her father really was, the significance of his life and his contribution as a communist to US society. In a meticulous, elliptical way, she builds up a fascinating interlace between the personal weft (what word?) and the political warp (what word?) of both their lives, and in doing so creates a fitting monument to a selfless and heroic US communist. This is a memoir rich in intelligent reflection of an aspect of US political history that receives little airing. A beautifully written and moving account.”
John Green, The Morning Star, England

“The Communist and the Communist’s Daughter tells the story of a family, of the struggle between old and new homelands, and of a man trying to balance his idealism with a reality that falls short of it.”
Jeff Fleischer, The Morning Star, England