Boom: Voices of the Sixtis

by francine Hardaway on January 2, 2008

    Tom Brokaw’s book about the sixties, "Boom," is probably too much
of a good thing.  It’s 600 pages long, and it tells a story of the
formative decade of American life that contained the assasination of
Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights
movement, the Vietnam war, the women’s movement, and the ascendancy of
rock and roll.

So much happened in the sixties that if you grew up during them, as I
did, you were "in the weeds" and never had any real perspective.  It
took me years to make sense of my own life, and reading Brokaw’s book
causes me to re-think it once again.

I wasn’t who I thought I was. I thought I was a radical, taking part in
demonstrations against the War and smoking dope while reading the
Metaphysical poets. I thought I was a student revolutionary, laying on
the floor, gazing at the ceiling and listening to the Beatles.

But I wasn’t. I was a woman who 1)was offered a chance to go to
Columbia Law School and be a pioneer woman lawyer and rejected it to
stay in  graduate school longer with her boyfriend, 2)got married right
after college and followed her husband to a second-rate school,
abandoning a fellowship to Stanford, 3)had a baby instead of an
abortion 4)worked every day of her life without ever identifying with
the woman’s movement, and 4)was clearly the offspring of liberal, New
York Jews who encouraged rather than thwarted rebellion.

I was in a transitional era. But I didn’t have to rebel against
anything, because my parents had already done that for me.  My mother
was a member of something called "The Workman’s Circle," which was seen
as connected to the communist party in the fifties.  My father was a
lawyer for the baker’s union until he entered show business and became
an advocate for the intellectual property and civil rights of black
entertainers. My father encouraged me to "have a profession," without
drawing the distinction that I was a girl.  Unlike Tom Brokaw, who
great up in South Dakota, I grew up in New York City, and my parents
very certainly smoked dope before I did.

So when the sixties came along, I just plugged right in. It wasn’t
until I moved to Arizona (about the time the Brokaws were moving to New
York) that I discovered how the other half lived. To me, the sixties
were about liberation; to him they were about the destruction of the
New Deal Democratic coalition and the rise of the conservative
movement.   Talk about the law of unintended consequences!

A book like "Boom" is good for me, because Tom Brokaw’s shock and awe
when he discovered the Haight and the anti-war movement are a lens
through which to reconsider my own past and that of my country. If you
were alive during that time, you ought to read it — just to see what
happened :-)


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Markman January 2, 2008 at 6:21 pm

As the old line says, “if you remember the sixties… you weren’t really there” Funny thing about seeds. They aren’t as noticeable as trees. Most of what happened in the sixties spawned in the fifties in the Beat world and the rise of Rock as a reaction to the more famous conformity. Most of what happened in the conservative conquest of America spawned in the sixties as a reaction to drugs, sex, rock, and various brands of liberation.

What seeds are we not aware of today that will dominate in the teens and twenties of what the neocons called “the New American Century”

Esther Schindler January 3, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Actually, Michael, I disagree. I think that most of us *were* aware during the 60s (and early 70s, in my case) that we were starting something new, planting seeds that would grow into something larger. Most people didn’t know exactly what it was that had been planted (an acorn doesn’t look much like an oak tree) but part of what gave the era meaning was that we believed we were making a difference.

I’m glad Francine posted this blog entry. I’ve been curious about the book myself, and now I’ll make a point of looking for a copy.

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