Red Menace

  • Type: Books
  • By: Lois Ruby
  • Age Category: Children
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Recommended by: Tom S.
  • ISBN/UPC: 9781541557499
  • Check Catalog

The Rosenberg Case as seen by a thirteen-year-old

It’s 1953.  Marty is the baseball-loving son of two left-leaning professors who teach at a liberal arts college in Kansas.  Though Marty himself isn’t very political – he’s too interested in the career of slugger Mickey Mantle – he sympathizes with the plight of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, acquaintances of his parents who stand convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and face death in the electric chair.  And with the McCarthy Era Red Scare at its peak, Marty and his family are under suspicion as Communist sympathizers and become subject to constant (and very open) surveillance by the FBI.  

This book ably interweaves historical subthemes that were part of the experience of many middle-class white families in the early 1950s – individuality vs. conformity, the rise of the nuclear family, suburbanization, and Cold War paranoia.  There are also subtle foreshadowings of the turbulent 60s.  Marty’s neighbor, a Korean War veteran who suffers from PTSD, could be a stand-in for Vietnam War vets who would arrive home some fifteen years later.  And Marty’s poet mother, the more radical of his parents, is very much a proto-Hippie.  

Read this book along with Eugene Yelchin’s thriller Spy Runner for another story about an American boy caught up in the Cold War.