My leggy wife and I walked down the hill from our house to the library. It was just cool enough to make it down the hill without breaking a sweat. Once we got to the library, our book greed was hard to contain.
I found four books –
- The Double Life of Paul de Man by Evelyn Barish
- Death on Diamond Mountain by Scott Carney
- The Fall of the House of Zeus by Curtis Wilkis
- Rebel Mother by Peter Andreas
Afterward, we threw the books in the backpack and went back up the hill. We found shade where could, and remarked that it won’t be cool enough to walk for much longer.
At night, I started reading Andreas’ Rebel Mother. It’s an amazing, true story of Andreas’ childhood with Carol Andreas, his “Mennonite-turned-Marxist mother” (p ix). The book is taken both from Peter’s memories and from diaries that Carol kept in over 100 notebooks written over 30 years.
The Narrative – So Far
The first 40 pages (labeled “I – Leaving”) speed the reader through his family’s background, as his parents marry, have three sons, and settle in Detroit. As the 1960s progress, Carol becomes increasingly radical and completes her doctorate in sociology. Her marriage to Peter’s father, Carl, fails. Eventually, she quits her tenure-track teaching job in mid-semester and moves the three boys to Berkeley, California.
In the following sections, Carol becomes disenchanted with Berkeley and moves to join Salvador Allende’s socialist revolution in Chile. Then, after Allende is overthrown, Carol and Peter escape to Argentina and settle in Peru. Along the way, Peter’s brothers, Ronald and Joel declare their independence from Carol and move out on their own – though both are still young teenagers. Throughout this time (1972-1974), Peter’s father continues to search for him to try to bring him back to Michigan.
Impressions – So Far
The interest in Rebel Mother is in the people, not the politics. Many books cover 1960s radicalism and Marxist thought. But the Andreas’ family story fascinates. The reader has a degree of admiration for Carol because she “stuck to her guns” and pursued the life that she wanted to live.
However, I found myself wondering about the costs. Carol rebelled against the idea that she had to be what other people wanted her to be. But, she attempted to do the same thing to Peter; he was supposed to be a Marxist revolutionary, because that’s what Carol wanted for him.
Also, though I’ve just read through page 174, Peter has already alluded to other costs of Carol’s choices. Peter remarked that his father “…was left, bitter and disoriented, and never fully recovered” (p. 28) from the collapse of their family.
In a letter, Carl tells Peter that Carol has “no feeling for human relationships” (p. 29). At times, the reader tends to agree. Often, Carol has sex with her boyfriends while Peter is in the same room, a few feet away. Also, in one, unforgettable scene, Peter’s hair is infested with lice while he is attending school in Peru. Peter is with a man named Esteban, whose family is paid to care for Peter while Carol attends political events. Esteban notices the lice in Peter’s hair and says that he can cure them if Peter will agree. Peter does and Esteban takes Peter outside and tells him to lean over. Esteban then dumps the urine in the family’s chamber pot onto Peter’s head and tells him to rubs in the urine. Then –
“I began to stand up, but he stopped me. ‘You need just a bit more,’ he said. There was no pee left in the chamber pot, so he unzipped his pants, pulled out his penis, and released a hot stream right on my head, taking care not to miss any spots. I was so drenched that even my ears were full. ‘There, that should do it'” (p. 122).
Rebel Mother is can’t-put-it-down good. So far, It’d give it 9/10.
I read to page 174, where Peter is back living in the Detroit suburbs with Carl after his father regained custody. But Carol is planning to kidnap Peter and take him back to South America.