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by Ellen Ruderman


"Chasing the Red Car brings the reader vividly into the San Fernando Valley of the 1950s and brings alive the pervasive fear and disruption that ordinary families experienced under McCarthyism."  —Julia Harumi Mass, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California.

Transplanted from her home in the Bronx to the burgeoning San Fernando Valley of 1947, Kim LeBow is faced with trouble on every side. Her home life is rocky and emotionally unpredictable, and the McCarthy-era communist witch hunts strike all around, threatening Kim's father and even reaching into her high school.

The political struggles and personal cataclysms that follow change Kim from an open and caring young girl into a political activist and educator, while leaving emotional scars that only time —and the return of the great love of her life —are able to heal.

In part, this book is a eulogy to the Red Cars - the vanished light rail transportation system that once bound together the far-flung corners of the Los Angeles area only to vanish, replaced by cars, freeways and traffic jams. As Kim Lebow rides The Red Car through the turbulent times of HUAC and the McCarthy Era, we ride with her back in history.

Both poignant and illuminating, Chasing the Red Car draws parallels between the political repression of the 1950s and the abuses of executive power after 9/11, and reminds us that all politics is personal and that the truth of George Santayana's maxim about history repeating itself can be seen all around us every day.