Paul Gaston talks of Fairhope utopia
Paul Gaston isn't just the history prof who gave MLK a tour a few months before getting pummeled while protesting segregation on Emmet Street. He's also a former denizen of Fairhope, the once-utopian Alabama community founded by his grandfather and later led by his father. And now this celebrated author has penned a new memoir about growing up–- and out of–- Fairhope.
Never heard of Fairhope? How about Henry George, the journalist so troubled by rapidly-accumulating wealth that he proposed a single tax system based solely on real estate? It was George followers who set up Fairhope, and it was Fairhope that eventually let Gaston down, as it became just another affluent community.
"A deeply ingrained privilege is not given up without protest," says Gaston, whose efforts to integrate Charlottesville included the infamous 1963 incident at which he was punched while picketing an Emmet Street restaurant.
"I read this touching, beautifully crafted book cover to cover, in one sitting, swept along by its honesty and immediacy, its ability to conjure up a momentous period in American history from a unique and yet unfailingly expansive and self-critical point of view."
So says novelist Suzanne Hudson, who extols the virtues of Gaston's Coming of Age in Utopia: The Odyssey of an Idea, alongside equally gushing blurbs from the likes of Julian Bond, John Casteen, Edward Ayers, and Larry Sabato.
"What are buddies for?" asks Gaston. "If I believed those, I'd think it was a pretty good book."
Find out what all the fuss is about December 3 when Gaston gives a reading at New Dominion Bookshop at 5:30pm.