Little Comrades tells the story of a girl growing up in a dysfunctional left-wing family in the Canadian West during the Depression, then moving, alone with her mother, to New York City during America’s fervently anti-Communist postwar years. With wit and honesty, Laurie Lewis describes an unusual childhood and an adventurous adolescence.
Laurie Lewis’s memoir begins with her child’s-eye understanding of a family life based on love, fear and lies. Her frightening father, who believes his children need to be beaten for their own good, is an important man in the Alberta Communist Party; her mother, a committed Party member, tries to protect her children from his alcoholic rages and maintains the pretence that everything is all right. Laurie watches her brother’s anger, her mother’s unhappiness, and learns to keep secrets -- her own and other people’s. For a time she and her brother are sent to live with strangers. They are not told where their parents are, because her father is in hiding from the RCMP (who are looking to arrest Communists). When she is fifteen a new life begins as her mother leaves her marriage and takes Laurie with her to New York City.
Laurie now discovers the delights and difficulties of rundown but cheap apartments in Little Italy and Greenwich Village. Her mother finds work as an editor and writer, meeting many left-wing artists, and there are eye-opening experiences with men -- for both mother and daughter. Then at sixteen Laurie spends a summer waiting on tables at a socialist resort, where she finds a serious older boyfriend who is much too bourgeois, according to her politically radical mother.
With wit, pathos and blistering emotional honesty Little Comrades tells the story of a girl growing up in two countries in a bewildering time of transition and new freedom for women.