The Westport Library has selected the book for January’s “WestportReads” townwide program.
It’s My Life in France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme. As usual, there will be creative tie-ins beyond “book talks.” Things like cooking demonstrations, recipe sharing, and Westporters’ recollections of Child’s impact on their lives.
There will also be a discussion of the McCarthy-era blacklist.
The reason is that Child’s husband, Paul, was investigated for “anti-American activity.” None was found, and he was allowed to keep his job.
Manny Margolis was not so lucky.
In 1947, he was a World War II veteran studying at the all-white, all-male University of North Carolina. A group of black students working on a voter registration drive needed a place to sleep. Manny got a nearby church to donate their basement. Then he organized a group of veterans — in uniform — to stay up all night. They made sure the Ku Klux Klan did not attack the group.
Four years later, Margolis was a Ph.D. student in international law at Harvard. He wanted to work for the State Department. But his mentor told him there were no Jews there. So Margolis got a job teaching international law at the University of Connecticut. He quickly became a very popular, and highly respected, instructor.
But the House Un-American Activities Committee sent representatives to the UConn president. They handed him a list with 4 names. “Fire them,” they said.
Margolis decided to become a lawyer. He called Yale, and asked where he could take the LSATs. The man on the phone recognized his now-notorious name. “You’re Manny Margolis?” he asked. “You’re in!”
Margolis graduated from law school in 1956. He dedicated his life to defending the 1st Amendment, civil liberties and civil rights. In 1971 — while living in Westport — he argued (and won) a Supreme Court case on behalf of Timothy Breen, a Staples High School graduate who had lost his student deferment after protesting the Vietnam War.
Estelle Margolis — Manny’s widow — plans to tell his blacklisting story in January, as part of WestportReads.
The library hopes other Westporters will too. If you’ve got a tale to tell like Margolis’ — or Julia Child’s husband — email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s a “recipe” for a fascinating — and important — discussion.