Born in 1968, a very tumultuous year that saw Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated, My Lai, and Vietnam War protests worldwide, I’m drawn to memoirs and novels set during the 1960s and 1970s, my own formative years.
Here are a bunch that I loved.
Space: A Memoir by Jesse Lee Kercheval
Novelist Kercheval was ten when her father accepted a job in Cocoa Beach, Florida in 1966, home of Cape Canaveral. Amid the excitement of the space launches, the story of how her family fell apart and her beloved sister’s attempt to hold them all together is moving and poignant.
Paper Wings by Marly Swick
Suzanne Keller grows up watching helplessly as her beautiful mother’s fragile happiness is fractured by JFK’s assassination and her own unresolved ghosts from the past, while the Beatles rose to stardom and the Vietnam war raged on. Her anxious and fervent belief that she can somehow save her mother is both heart wrenching and powerful.
An Egg on Three Sticks by Jackie Fischer
In the early 1970s, in San Francisco, Abby is thirteen and just wants to be a teenager. But her life spirals out of control as her mother’s nervous breakdown shatters her family.
The Summer of Naked Swim Parties by Jessica Anya Blau
In 1976 California, fourteen year old Jamie gets her first boyfriend, hangs out with her two best friends smoking cigarettes and tanning, while her free-wheeling parents throw naked swim parties, much to her eternal embarrassment.
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
In a tony Detroit, Michigan suburb in the early 1970s, the local teenage boys become obsessed with the five beautiful Lisbon sisters, whose claim to fame is that they all committed suicide.
A Ticket to Ride by Paula McLain
Before her phenomenal novel, The Paris Wife, McLain penned this provocative novel. Awkward and shy fifteen year old Jamie lives with her uncle in 1973 Illinois when her older, mysterious cousin, Fawn, comes for a summer visit. Fawn’s risky behavior and dangerous influence lead to tragedy. See also McLain’s painful memoir of growing up in foster homes in the 1970s, Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses.
A Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne
During the summer of 1972, in Spring Hill, Maryland, nine year old Marsha breaks her leg and, with time on her hands, chronicles her parents’ divorce, her teenaged siblings’ shoplifting adventures, and the murder of a boy in her class in her notebook (shades of Harriet the Spy?). When a quiet, unassuming man moves into the house next door, her imagination runs wild as she comes to believe he is the murderer. The repercussions of her actions and that summer resonate long into adulthood.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
In 1973, fourteen year old Susie Salmon is murdered by a neighbor; the entire novel is her point of view about her murder and the effects on those she left behind. Very creepy.
~Maria, who once owned a mood ring, crushed on Shaun Cassidy, and saw all the Star Wars movies first run.
7 responses to “Flower Power”
Life can be beautiful and it can be frightening. I want to live loud and unafraid, but it seems we often pay a price. However, if we never risk, we probably will still experience the lows of life and we will never have a chance to experience the highs.
angst; tragedy; death; risk– a time of cultural change for sure. I had a modd ring, a pet rock and stood IN LINE around the movie theatre to see Star Wars!
Very interesting list you’ve put together – thank you! :)
You’re very welcome! Thanks for reading.
Born in 67 I can relate to these themes. Music was a huge influence. I remember in the 70s being torn between Disco and Rock. My brothers had “Death to Disco” bumper stickers. I liked both but I remember hearing Led Zep for the first time (on LP) and totally not understanding or “getting it” right away.
Jim, it’s interesting you mention this because music is mentioned often in several of these books. And, when The Virgin Suicides was made into a movie, the music was just as compelling as the story.
Yea, I was in Viet Nam and was in college during the Campus riots. I was in New York City and watched the body of Robert Kennedy being carried into St Patrick’s Cathedral. Being from Mississippi I remember the civil rights movement well. Those were very rocky times for sure.