Thursday, May 21, 2009

Two writers, two couples and two marriages that reflect the past 40 years of our history

Maybe it really is Obama: Or perhaps our time really is beginning to defuse the culture wars.   It seems to be a meme of the moment to objectively reexamine the turbulent period of the late 60's and early 70's.  First there were the books by Bill Ayers and Mark Rudd, taking a macro and some would argue a revisionist, contextual and more nuanced view of the time. Now we have two new books, telling stories of the late 60's and early 70's  through the lens of two very different, very personal and very explosive marriages.

First Danzy Senna in her book Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History tells of her parents who married in 1968, as they merged two complicated strains of American heritage: Boston blue blood traceable to the Mayflower and Southern African American with a cross strain of Mexican–Native American. Her parents seemed poised to defy history. They were two brilliant young American writers. Married in 1968,  a year that seemed to separate the past from the present; together, these two would snub the histories that divided them and embrace the radical future of the time.  When their marriage disintegrated eight years later, it was, as one friend put it, “the ugliest divorce in Boston’s history”—a violent, traumatic war that felt all the more heartrending given the hopeful symbolism of their union. Their breakup personified the complexity of racial issues that have been with us right up until today.

Next, Robert Greenfield, whose books, articles, profiles and stories have made him one of the most informed and insightful voices of the '60's, tells of the tumultuous lives of  another   young couple, this one in Swinging London in the late 60's and early 70's.  His book, A Day in the Life: One Family, the Beautiful People, and the End of the Sixties is also a very emotional and personal story; one that mirrors societies transformation from the psychedelic 60's to the reality of the '70's. Greenfield writes a kind of "rock 'n' roll, Tender is the Night" amid the backdrop of glamorous lifestyles and very famous icons of the time.

Both books, taken together,powerfully capture a transformative moment in 20th Century history.

My conversation with Danzy Senna

My conversation with Robert Greenfield

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