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The Book

“I found History Lessons deeply honest and moving. It’s a haunting, fascinating story of growing up with secrets, both personal and political, written with wisdom and generosity of spirit. Dan Lynn Watt is sensitive not just to the dreams and illusions of communism but to the subtle ways living in that world affected the lives of several generations of his own family and those around them.”

—Adam Hochschild, National Book Award finalist, King Leopold’s Ghost and Spain in Our Hearts


“Once upon a time, American communists devoted their lives to a vision of social and economic justice. Dan Lynn Watt’s marvelous account is alive to the heroism and shortcomings, commitment, and demands, striving and falling short. Watt communicates a vivid sense of his own life as he grew up in New York City, coming to terms with the special legacy he was bequeathed. This book charts a crucial chapter in United States history and an impulse that continues to deeply matter.”

—Baron Wormser, The Road Washes Out in Spring


“Growing up in segregated northern Virginia during the McCarthy era, I secretly wondered if children in Russia and China weren’t simply kids like me. I never thought to wonder about American communist children. Weren’t they also kids like me? Dan Lynn Watt answers that question, recreating his growth to adulthood as son of an American communist party leader. History Lessons is an easy, contemplative narrative with poignancy sufficient to elicit tears. Watt brings new dimensions to lyrics, which he learned as a boy listening to Paul Robeson sing, ‘I’m the everybody who’s nobody. I’m the nobody who’s everybody.’”

—Lady Borton, After Sorrow