Multnomah Artists Repertory Picks: Read/Watch/Talk for Red Herring
Annotation:Harry Gold, a Jewish Russian immigrant who worked as an industrial chemist, is the man who gave the USSR the plans for the atom bomb (Michael Hollinger based the character James Appel in part on Gold). He was a very regular guy, unremarkable by most people's standards, how did he end up as one of the most notorious Cold War spies? Read this carefully researched biography to get acquainted with the real-life story of what motivated Harry Gold to spy for the Russians, how he was caught, and how his confession helped convict the Rosenbergs for their part in the operation.
Annotation:Eighth grader Francine Green is quiet and keeps herself well out of trouble; she's always been a good girl who follows rules. Francine's father and her teachers (the nuns at All Saints School for Girls) have always discouraged her from frank opinions, and out in the big world, Hollywood writers and stars are being blacklisted for expressing unpopular political ideas – so why should she risk attracting the wrong sort of attention? Francine gets a reason to take risks when she makes friends with new student Sophie Bowman, an outspoken, articulate, and fearless girl who feels injustice keenly. Francine and Sophie make friends, and now Francine realizes she has deeply-felt opinions too – can she express them freely without ruining everything? Read this charming novel to get a feel for the McCarthy era from the viewpoint of an (almost!) conformist childhood.
Annotation:The 1950s are famed as America's most prosperous decade: a time when peace was welcome and the Cold War raged; when cultural repression was at a height and conformity was valued, but somehow also the time when the civil rights movement exploded and rock and roll came to real popularity and influence. This contradictory and confusing era can be difficult to understand, indeed! But Halberstam's engaging account is truly comprehensive: as Library Journal's review explained, he "touches every thread in the warp and woof of the national fabric." From the Supreme Court's integration of public schools to Russia's sputnik launch to the founding of McDonald's restaurants to the Beats to (of course!) the Red Scare and the atom bomb, The Fifties provides a thorough, detailed introduction to and analysis of the national experience of the 1950s. Read this accessible history to truly put the decade into context.
Annotation:Elizabeth Bentley was a well-educated, middle-class girl, groomed for a quiet and useful life. But in the 1930s, when she was in her twenties, Bentley shrugged off expectations and became a communist. By the time the Second World War was on, she was directing a huge espionage network across the United States, for the benefit of the Soviets. Then, in 1945, she jumped ship and told her story to the FBI, the United States Congress, and the press. Bentley's tale of international intrigue shocked the public, encouraged Congress to stamp down on threats and home, and thereby helped usher in the Red Scare. Read this biography/adventure story to get a sense for what set the scene for the dangerous politics of the 1950s.
Annotation:Paul and his gang of friends are over the moon when a movie crew arrives in their hometown to film a new horror picture: the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The boys immediately make friends with some of the extras, and before you know it they're involved in an FBI investigation, snooping into the life of a professor at a nearby university who worked on the Manhattan Project and was friends with a real-life Russian spy. Read this quick-paced thriller as a great illustration of the parallels between the Red Scare and the horror films of the 1950s.
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We're partnering with Artists Repertory Theatre to provide a suggested reading list for Red Herring. The first book in the list will be discussed at the Read/Watch/Talk Book Club. For more information, visit the Artists Rep website at www.artistsrep.org. ** Synopsis of Red Herring: One of the charms of Red Herring is the playwright’s deft combination of thematic elements that playgoers (and readers) aren't used to seeing together: Red Herring contains a murder mystery with a woman detective – unusual in the 1950s! It's a spy story with lots of plot tension, set in the Cold War era in the heart of the Red Scare. The three sets of protagonists are all lovers, engaged to be married. The play feels hardboiled, comedic, suspenseful, wise-cracking, and maybe a little hopefully romantic. I've picked out a few great books that echo one of these themes: spies, secrecy and the Red Scare.