Review

Boom!: Voices of the Sixties: Personal Reflections on the ’60s And Today

by Tom Brokaw

In
THE GREATEST GENERATION, veteran newsman Tom Brokaw examined the
accomplishments and sacrifices of an America contending with the
shadow of World War darkening daily life. He seeks to recreate that
feeling in BOOM!

The Baby Boomers have seen innumerable changes in the years
following World War II --- an improvement in rights for women and
minorities; technological advancement; revolutions in popular
culture and the arts, among others. Brokaw reports on and
interviews scores of “boomers” to discuss how coming of
age (primarily) in the 1960s changed their lives.

Many of the names will be familiar to readers; others will not be,
but that doesn’t diminish their contributions to myriad
“causes.” While a Gloria Steinem rose to international
prominence, a Muriel Kraszewski, who fought for women’s
rights in the workplace, received much less acclaim. But
that’s part of Brokaw’s point: Boomers were all in it
together, as a community, striving toward common goals. Brokaw says
that the people he spoke with for the book believed “they
were the largest, best educated, and the wealthiest generation in
American history.” I wonder if every generation doesn’t
make that claim, as it accomplishes a bit more than the preceding
one.

Brokaw splits his narrative into a type of “before” and
“after” scenarios. The first part roughly considers
life before 1969, with the assignations, the war in Vietnam and the
struggle for civil rights. The second part is a reflection of the
“Aftershocks: Consequences, Intended and Otherwise.”
This can be a bit confusing; for example, there are sections of
women’s issues in both parts, but ultimately they tell very
similar stories of stepping out of the image of the television
housewife, vacuuming the living room in high heels and pearls, and
“into their own.”

The Vietnam War also plays prominently in BOOM! as men who were
then of draft age struggled with their consciences, whether to join
in the fighting for American ideals or protest perceived
injustices. Those “protest parallels” are especially
apt today, as the country is embroiled in another conflict many see
as unwinnable. Additional topics consider the (r)evolution of
politics and other societal issues, although Brokaw does include
some ’60s pop culture, including musicians and entertainers
(James Taylor, Paul Simon, Judy Collins, etc.).

Brokaw concludes his latest opus with a profile of astronaut Jim
Lovell, a member of the Apollo 8 crew that made the first trip to
orbit the moon in 1968. This is an interesting choice; one might
have thought the more appropriate ending would have been Neil
Armstrong, who took man’s first wobbly steps on another
surface. Lovell said that when he looked down on the Earth from his
vantage point, all the world’s problems seemed so
insignificant. Somehow I don’t think that’s the
impression Brokaw would want to leave for a generation that tends
to have a reputation of being self-centered.

As a member of the generation under his microscope, Brokaw is
well-equipped to report, firsthand, something that he could not do
in his previous effort. But is this a book that should have been
written now, or should more time have elapsed, as was the case with
THE GREATEST GENERATION? Have we accomplished all those idealistic
goals we had in the ’60s? Have we attained an America built
on liberty and justice for all, or have those ideals sloughed away
as we’ve grown into middle age and beyond? The answer, of
course, is mixed.

Reviewed by Ron Kaplan on January 7, 2011

Boom!: Voices of the Sixties: Personal Reflections on the ’60s And Today
by Tom Brokaw

  • Publication Date: November 6, 2007
  • Genres: History, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 1400064570
  • ISBN-13: 9781400064571