Rooms of Nancy Vernon Kelly's childhood home in Hollywood, California, provide scaffolding for Souls at Risk, a memoir about the roots and consequences of her writer-producer father's sudden turn to right-wing extremism. Radicalization didn't occur in a vacuum. Its grip had clear public and personal roots and consequences. The narrative pivots around a 1960 concert the author's father produced in San Diego for blacklisted folksinger Pete Seeger. When Seeger refused to sign a loyalty oath to use a public high school auditorium, the American Legion accused him of being a communist and protested to the San Diego School Board. Although the concert went on (and Kelly sang along!), the fallout continued for many years, entrenched in Cold War American-Soviet hostility.
Souls at Risk weaves together the long view of a personal, public, and historical story that embodies both the disruption of extremism and the disruption of grace. While remembering the unwelcome parts of life with hateful extremism, the author also delights in the memory of experiences and people who kept her fledgling soul from completely flattening out in a turbulent time. Indeed, the sweetest touch of mercy arrived in Kelly's inbox almost fifty years after the concert.