Sunday, January 11, 2015

"It Won't Work" Ch. 1 Excerpt 2 : From Freiheit to Mao

Emerson had had his interest in social issues pecked by reading his Pop’s Yiddish newspaper’s English language Sunday centerfold, but he wanted more. He went on a mission to find newspapers like the Morgen Freiheit. It wasn’t easy; socialist periodicals weren't to be found at most newsstands. But one day, on the southeast corner 42nd Street and The Avenue of the Americas, on a stroll across town after classes at Central High School, on his way back from a visit to Times Square’s international newspaper store to buy Boston Globe’s firsthand news of his beloved Red Sox, he found some Yiddish newspapers and the Freiheit alongside Workers World, The Radical Guardian, The Daily World, The Socialist Worker, and The Revolutionary Worker.  
The Morgan Freiheit or “Morning Freedom” had been around since the 1920’s. The “Communistic fighting newspaper” promoted the Jewish labor movement, defended the Soviet Union, advanced proletarian culture, and criticized American racism. Emerson’s Pop had been reading it for decades to his Bubby’s chagrin. “Sheman, if you like Russia so much, why don’t you go back there?” he remembered her taunting him. His Pop just ignored her. He knew how important the Freiheit was to the development of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers union which he had helped found, and even the Congress of Industrial Organizations itself.
In the last days of the Freiheit, which ceased publication in the ‘80’s, Emerson got the European Jewish perspective, but Emerson had become more interested in China since his ostracism from his Christian friends in Lawrence and his friendship with Hom Chow-Mein. Influences from Chinese socialism at rallies he attended with Tony predominated. The accomplishments of Mao Tse-tung and the Cultural Revolution fascinated him. He looked even deeper for reading material about it.
He wandered downtown after school some days to Greenwich Village, to visit head shops, with Tony, for interesting rolling paper, Orange Julius drinks, rock and roll records, and radical bookshops. They perused Free Being and Village Oldies for used records, the 8th Street Bookstore, The Strand, the Jefferson Bookstore off Union Square, The Universal Bookstore, a strange place with an interesting storefront on West 13th Street, and Four Continents on Fifth Avenue with Soviet government books. But most of all, he loved visiting China Books and Periodicals.  

China Books and Periodicals on Fifth Avenue, a block from the original Barnes & Noble, was the largest American retailer of publications from and about Communist China in English. Old Peking Review magazines were free for the taking, even after they became Beijing Review. Emerson bought his first Red Book of Mao’s Quotations there. The paperback books, all in light brown covers with a red cameo of Mao, had onion skin pages that fell apart as soon as you cracked the book open, but they were inexpensive; important for a sixteen-year-old child of a single parent without a job. They, too, closed their doors in the ‘80’s but not before Emerson had his fill of socialist literature and his love for things Chinese. 

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