Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 by

Charlottesville, Virginia’s Daily Progress recently interviewed Paul Gaston—renowned historian and author of the newly published Coming of Age in Utopia: The Odyssey of an Idea—in anticipation of his upcoming book launch and signing on December 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the New Dominion Bookshop. Professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, Gaston will be reading from his new memoir and leading what is sure to be a deeply engrossing discussion.

In Coming of Age in Utopia, Gaston’s first book-length work in recent years, he chronicles his story of a committed life and reveals his deep roots in the unique utopian community of Fairhope, Alabama founded in 1894 by his grandfather and later led by his  father. But by the 1950s, it was clear that great changes were coming to the South, and Gaston began looking outward for ways to take part in the civil rights movement.

Gaston’s career at the University of Virginia, where he taught from 1957-97, forms the core of Coming of Age in Utopia, and the story Gaston tells of social change both in the city of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia is one in which he played a significant role. He related that role and the vision behind his new memoir in a recent interview with the Charlottesville Daily Progress.

From the article:

“I wanted to teach Southern history at a Southern university, and somehow be involved in the civil rights movement,” Gaston said. “So I was really lucky that I got a job at Virginia rather than the University of Alabama or the University of South Carolina, because the beatings down there were a lot more severe, and people got fired too.”

“I wanted to show that struggles for social justice don’t come easy, and they’re easily thwarted. And, I guess, insofar as I had a philosophical or historical point to make, it’s that when privilege is deeply engrained, change isn’t going to come from above—it has to come from below.

“And that was part of the civil rights movement, which I think most historians agree with. It wasn’t [John] Kennedy and [Lyndon] Johnson who changed everything, it was the people in the movement who forced the change.”

Read the full article at the Charlottesville Daily Progress website.

The Hook, Charlottesville’s weekly independent newspaper, also recently took note of Coming of Age in Utopia and Gaston’s upcoming New Dominion event. Read the full article at The Hook website.

Coming of Age in Utopia is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online retailer.