My 30th book of the year is one I gave my wife as a Valentine’s Day gift in 2013 and only now got around to reading myself. It is a memoir written jointly by Alice and Staughton Lynd about their involvement in communities promoting peace and justice over the past roughly 60 years. From involvement in civil rights, student, and antiwar movements in the 1950s and 60s to work with prisoners and the poor into the 21st century, Alice and Staughton share the story of their ‘two-person community’ and how their marriage shaped and was shaped by their commitments to peacefulness.
The book has less a narrative flow than an episodic one, as they trace themes and ideas that emerged from their struggles to whole-heartedly pursue what they call ‘leadership from below’ and true consensus building in each of the causes they embraced. This is a story of partnership from a gifted couple whose common commitments have given their lives and their marriage a larger purpose. If you are familiar with any of the movements and organizations that Alice and Staughton served over the years you will recognize names and events that intersected their lives; but the deeper drama comes not from the well known figures but from the intensity of this couple’s devotion to each other and to their principles even to the point of suffering. A key quote from near the end of the book (actually taken originally from statements by the Polish Workers’ Defense Committee in the 1970s) is captured with this blog post, and it summarizes the ways Alice and Staughton have tried to live. Whether or not you share all their ideals the story of their life-long devotion can’t help but inspire as it points to a brighter future. The path to that future may be hard to find and challenging to stay on since in truth it’s not that simple.