I've got music blaring while I write this review. Bob Dylan is issuing marching orders, "for the times they are a-changin'." I may order the ringtone.
I'm not the only one vaulted back some 30 or 40 years by Dylan's rasp. Essayists and poets, 48 in all, recall where they were, what they were doing 'way back then in Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the '60s and '70s. Editors (and contributors) Kate Farrell, Linda Joy Myers, Amber Lea Starfire, have put together a kaleidoscopic view of America in those turbulent decades.
To my mind, personal histories make the best histories of the times. Yes, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter were presidents; Viet Nam was a horror in Asia; at home, assassinations, civil rights and student unrest vied for headlines. Grab an encyclopedia and get the names and dates, but read this book to know how people, especially young women, felt and what they did about it. Then the decades come alive.
At first glance I thought the stories to be California-centric, which makes sense, since it is home-base for the editors. Through this book, I went to Berkeley, hung out in Haight-Ashbury and scared my mother out of her wits by slipping off to Altamont. But I also went to Viet Nam, and protested the same in Wisconsin. I lived in London and Greenwich Village; I married at 14 and proved I could make it on my own by living the single life. All of these combine to produce a fine piece of women's history and American history.
What became of these lively youngsters? Did they come to no good end, as many of their parents and teachers confidently predicted? Over-confidently predicted, it turns out. The Contributors section at the end of the book fascinated me nearly as much as the essays. No surprise, many became writers, but also—you name it—a teacher, an actress, a psychotherapist, a fabric designer.
Clearly, this book will appeal to women who, like the authors (and like me), lived these days. But women of a later vintage will learn from and identify with their predecessors. The editors reflect this in their dedication: "To the women who were there, and remember. To the women who were not, and wish they were."
Now, why do I want the ringtone? Some things don't change. Parents worry about their kids in turbulent times. I worry about mine even though I know they are fine, wise and able to take care of themselves. Still, it won't hurt to be reminded when one of them calls.
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command. . .
For the times they are a-changin'.
High school and college teacher Kate Farrell is founder of the Wisdom Has a Voice memoir project and is editor of a book on daughters' memories of their mothers. Visit her website.
Californian Linda Joy Myers, a once-Oklahoman, is president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers and the author of four books. Learn more on her blog.
Amber Lea Starfire holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of San Francisco. She is the author of two books and has contributed to many anthologies. Learn more on her website.
Find out more about all three editors on the book website.
(See another review of this book, here)
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