This is not a great novel, but literary ambition may not have been David Reich’s only motivation for writing The Antiracism Trainings. An editor at this magazine from 1992 to 2000, Reich has written a thinly veiled satire of the Unitarian Universalist Association and its antiracism programs in the 1990s.
The “Liberal Religious Center,” where the protagonist Mickey Kronenberg works as a magazine editor, promotes “Six Suggestions,” the last of which affirms: “Persons of Color, Persons with Disabilities, and Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender Persons have been gifted with a special Wisdom. They are here to teach the rest of us how to live.” Outraged by the varieties of groupthink that can overtake liberals in the pursuit of justice, Kronenberg becomes increasingly alienated from the LRC’s religious and political vision.
As a roman à clef, The Antiracism Trainings will interest (and irritate) people who took part in the UUA’s early antiracism trainings. Historians will consult it alongside the documentary history covering the same period, The Arc of the Universe Is Long (Skinner House, 2009). But it’s striking how the novel’s predictions about the LRC in the new millennium don’t match what happened at the UUA. The novel predicts an even more ideologically rigid institution, whereas President William G. Sinkford dismantled the staff group that infuriated Reich and ended the UUA’s reliance on CrossRoads, the antiracism training group that had dominated its work.
Satire holds up an unforgiving mirror. Readers will disagree about how much this mirror distorts history, but Reich’s novel does offer an informed critique of recent UUA history. That, and not its literary merit, is what it will be remembered for.
- The Antiracism Trainings. By David Reich. Blazevox [books], 2010. (Amazon.com)
- The Arc of the Universe Is Long: Unitarian Universalists, Anti-Racism and the Journey from Calgary. By Leslie Takahashi Morris, James (Chip) Roush, and Leon Spencer. Skinner House, 2009. (UUA Bookstore)