Shortly after Margot Adler died I logged into Amazon and ordered both of her memoirs, Heretic’s Heart: A Journey Though Spirit and Revolution and her last published work Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side. I’ll talk about Vampires in later post. I do regret not having read both books while Adler was alive. Would have been a real honor to have interviewed her for my podcast. Alas, she was on my list of must-contact and I didn’t get to her before she died from cancer.
I enjoyed taking a look at the 50’2 and 60’s through the mirror of her memory. The end of one era and the beginning of another. The McCarthy era was winding down when Adler was a child. Her father had been subject to some of the trials and tribulations of being a Communist and nonconformist during that time. Her grandparents had fled to the US to avoid some of the backlash for their political beliefs. Her grandfather was the psychologist Alfred Adler. From the start she was no stranger to controversy and free thinking. Even the elementary school she attended in New York City was off the beaten path – to read her talk about it I felt like I was reading a description of the progressive school from Auntie Mame.
Heretic’s Heart, true to the genre of the memoir or autobiography, is full of remembered bits and details as well as letters and journal entries. Adler used those letters and entries to tell her story, sometimes from the perspective of someone else. I really enjoyed the penpal correspondence between the young Margot and the soldier serving in Vietnam. The frankness and openness of both of them was sometimes difficult to read. The raw emotion that went into those letters really made me feel as if I was experiencing what they were describing. Margot’s letters from jail, when she was arrested during a Free Speech Movement rally at UCLA-Berkeley, were very visceral.
In Heretic’s Heart Adler shares some of her deepest joys and fears. From her childhood into her teen years, through college and her exploration of herself and the world. She takes you on her soul journey, spending time in pre-Castro Cuba, supporting the FSM at Berkeley, and moving forward with her spirituality. Born into a non-practicing Jewish family with communist leanings, if any faith system was apparent in her childhood it would have been agnosticism or atheism. But as she progressed into adulthood Adler felt a calling to something more spiritual. She discovered Paganism, as many know from her first book Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America.
I don’t want to give to much away, but I do want you to understand that this is a story well worth your time to read. I devoured the book in a matter of a few days. For some reason, right after the first of the year, I felt compelled to dive into the world of nonfiction and personal memoirs. This was one of the first in that adventure that I read. I am definitely glad that I did. Perhaps it had something to do with her being a broadcaster, but more likely it was because of the recent loss of her to this world. As the saying goes, those who are remembered never die.