Claire Conner’s memoir, Wrapped in the Flag (Beacon Press 2013, 2014) uses intimate personal stories intertwined with the history of the era to chronicle her parents’ descent into the world of radical politics. Her teen years were dominated by the John Birch Society, a anti-Communist, anti-government, populist movement dedicated to “taking back the country.”
Claire’s father, Stillwell J. (Jay) Conner, was the first and most visible member of the Birch society in Chicago. He served on the National Council of the organization for 32 years with men like Fred C. Koch (father of today’s infamous Koch brothers) and a host of other wealthy, powerful and radical men. After the Birch society labeled President Dwight Eisenhower a dedicated Communist, Claire’s father garnered significant media attention. The scandal that ensued made “Bircher” a term of derision. As a child of “Birchers,” Claire was shunned in school and isolated from friends and neighbors.
Claire gradually evolved from a compliant 13-year-old Birch member to an outspoken liberal; a change that provoked harsh attacks from her parents. Several years ago, Claire recognized the lurch to the far right in the Republican Party for what it is: the John Birch Society reborn with political muscle, huge money and media support.
With its compelling, easy-to-read stories, Wrapped in the Flag moves seamlessly between memoir and history, humor and pain, past and present serving up keen insight into the impact of extremism on one woman, her family and, if unchecked, on the entire country.
Historians, political pundits, award-winning authors, and reviewers love Wrapped in the Flag. Readers rave about the book declaring it “hard to put down.” Here’s a small sample of the praise for Claire’s book.
“The John Birch Society had a huge impact on American politics. This book is about a journey through and out of that Bircher netherworld. It’s a vital piece of the puzzle to understanding the madness that overcame America and a moving story about one person’s journey back to sanity.”
Frank Schaeffer, award-winning author of Crazy For God
“I’ve been waiting for a book like this: one that demonstrates the shockingly effectual continuity of the John Birch Society as a force in American political life: from its early days discrediting the Cold War credentials of JFK . . . to its sudden eruption into mainstream Republican thinking with the rise of the Tea Party movement.”
Rick Perlstein, award-winning author of Into the Storm, Nixonland, and The Invisible Bridge
“Wrapped in the Flag . . . is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the sources of the conspiratorial, hate-filled tropes of the right today—whether they emanate from the Tea Party, the gun movement, race realists, Sovereign Citizens, or, increasingly, from elected officials in the GOP.”
Arthur Goldwag, Author of The New Hate: Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right
“ . . . Claire Conner has performed a great service by reminding us of the origins of some of most virulent ideas that continue to pollute our body politic. As the skeptical daughter of two passionate Birchers, Conner may be the only person who could have written such a clear-eyed, insider’s account of the persistent dangers of right-wing extremism.”
Charles Kaiser, award-winning author of 1968 In America, The Gay Metropolis, and The Cost of Courage
“If there is such a thing as “Conservative Royalty” in the US, Claire is surely a princess. Her story of growing up in Chicago surrounded by John Birch Society members as well as the founders of the modern conservative movement is amazing for its ability to reveal what is at the heart of the conservative dream to re-shape the American political system. Claire Conner’s memoir is at the same time honest and frightening and should be read by anyone who is interested in knowing more about the roots of the Tea party, Libertarianism and the forces now in the driver’s seat of the GOP.”
Rob Lorei, News/Public Affairs Director WMNF 88.5 FM, Tampa FL
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