Former Radical Activist Reads from Memoir at Hudson Hall

Jonathan Lerner, 1971 or 72 (photo Barbara Leckie)

(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Jonathan Lerner, local writer, journalist, and founding member of radical Vietnam-era group Weather Underground, launches his fascinating memoir, Swords in the Hands of Children: Reflections of an American Revolutionary at Hudson Hall on Sunday, June 11, at 5pm. The book reading and signing will be followed by a reception with the author.

Lerner’s short, lyrical memoir chronicles the rise and fall of one of America’s most notorious radical groups of the Vietnam Era. Lerner, a local resident who is now a journalist specializing in environment and urbanism and is the chair of Hudson’s Conservation Advisory Council, was one of the Weather Underground’s founding members and editor of its publication, Fire!. He speaks against the group’s misogyny and violence but stands by its rejection of the Vietnam War and endemic racism.

“In this compelling, wise, and passionate memoir, Jonathan Lerner gives us a deeply honest and self-questioning depiction of his youthful radicalism. By telling his particular story of life at the far edge of the 60s and 70s counter culture (with all its intricate complexities), he is able to be precise and unstinting about the wages of resistance and rebellion without sacrificing his continuing and moving idealism.” —Dana Spiotta, author of Innocents and Others and Eat the Document.

“In language as emotionally bruising as it is beautiful, Lerner illuminates the overlapping, interlocking histories of political revolution, anti-war activism, Black Power, Gay Liberation, Radical Feminism—and all the insanity, passion, and sheer drive of the Sixties and Seventies. …A brilliant and moving analysis of one of the most significant moments in American history.”— Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States.

Variously known as the Weather Underground, the Weathermen, or Weatherman, the group unleashed a series of bombings across the United States, attacking the Pentagon, the Capitol Building, and the U.S. State Department, among many other places. At its height, the organization consisted of several hundred people, all committed to violent change and toe-to-toe battles with the police.

Against the vividly evoked chaos and conflicts of the time, Lerner probes the impulses that led a small group of educated, privileged young Americans to turn to violence as a means of political change. Beyond that, he tells the true story of an intellectually adventurous but insecure gay man immersed in the macho, misogynistic, and physically confrontational environment of the Weathermen.

Jonathan Lerner today

Inventing himself first as “minister of propaganda” for a movement — and along the way participating in the 1970 Venceremos Brigade in Cuba and observing the Native American uprising at Wounded Knee in 1975 — and reinventing himself, too, as a high-rolling gay hustler, Lerner recounts a wild and utterly American journey from idealism to destruction and beyond. Other Weatherpeople have written memoirs; none has explored the painful history of the consequential group with such penetrating honesty.

“Imagine if your favorite uncle, a brutally honest, worldly, self-reflective gay raconteur, had been, as a twenty year-old, a lieutenant in an underground guerrilla army dedicated to the violent overthrow of the government of the United States. Jonathan Lerner is that favorite uncle you never had, telling unbelievable true stories—no bullshit—from the ‘revolution’ fifty years ago. This is the closest you’ll ever get to being there.” — Mark Rudd, national secretary of SDS, founding member of the Weather Underground and author of Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen.

Hudson Hall offers a dynamic year-round schedule of music, theater, dance, literature, workshops for youth and adults, as well as family programs and large-scale community events such as Winter Walk. Located in an historic landmark that houses New York State’s oldest surviving theater, Hudson Hall reopens following a year-long historic restoration with an inaugural season beginning in Spring 2017. The newly restored Hudson Hall reflects Hudson’s rich history in a modern facility that welcomes residents and visitors from throughout our local community, across the nation, and around the globe.




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