Synopses & Reviews
In The Greatest Generation, his landmark bestseller, Tom Brokaw eloquently evoked for America what it meant to come of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Now, in Boom , one of America's premier journalists gives us an epic portrait of another defining era in America as he brings to life the tumultuous Sixties, a fault line in American history. The voices and stories of both famous people and ordinary citizens come together as Brokaw takes us on a memorable journey through a remarkable time, exploring how individual lives and the national mindset were affected by a controversial era and showing how the aftershocks of the Sixties continue to resound in our lives today. In the reflections of a generation, Brokaw also discovers lessons that might guide us in the years ahead.
Boom One minute it was Ike and the man in the grey flannel suit, and the next minute it was time to turn on, tune in, drop out. While Americans were walking on the moon, Americans were dying in Vietnam. Nothing was beyond question, and there were far fewer answers than before.
Published as the fortieth anniversary of 1968 approaches, Boom gives us what Brokaw sees as a virtual reunion of some members of the class of '68, offering wise and moving reflections and frank personal remembrances about people's lives during a time of high ideals and profound social, political, and individual change. What were the gains, what were the losses? Who were the winners, who were the losers? As they look back decades later, what do members of the Sixties generation think really mattered in that tumultuous time, and what will have meaning going forward?
Race, war, politics, feminism, popularculture, and music are all explored here, and we learn from a wide range of people about their lives. Tom Brokaw explores how members of this generation have gone on to bring activism and a Sixties mindset into individual entrepreneurship today. We hear stories of how this formative decade has led to a recalibrated perspective-on business, the environment, politics, family, our national existence.
Remarkable in its insights, profoundly moving, wonderfully written and reported, this revealing portrait of a generation and of an era, and of the impact of the 1960s on our lives today, lets us be present at this reunion ourselves, and join in these frank conversations about America then, now, and tomorrow.
From the Hardcover edition.
"This is an utterly original, unprecedented work of cultural history and commentary, a tour de force, based on an exhaustive array of sources, explicating American experience from World War II to the present. There are simplyand#160;no books on this period with this scope."
"Outside the Gates of Eden looks at how American cultural landscapes have transformed and endured from the close of World War II to the first decade of the twenty-first century. Looking at diverse Cold War places and spaces--from suburban housing developments and atomic bomb testing sites toand#160;countercultural communes, Silicon Valley garages, and the virtual realms of computer gaming--Hales considers the significant impact that Cold War sensibilities, especially the persistent threat of nuclear devastation, have had on American understandings of self and national identity. Engaging, personal, and persuasive, Outside the Gatesand#160;of Eden neatly synthesizes the lived experiences of postwar atomic anxiety and their enormous repercussions today."
and#8220;In his new book, Outside the Gates of Eden: The Dream of America from Hiroshima to Now, Peter Bacon Hales, known for his Atomic Spaces,and#160;sets the American nightmare of nuclear war against the American dream of peaceful suburban prosperity. He juxtaposes sites such as Levittown, New York, and Yucca Flat, Nevada, also known as Doomand#160;Town, where nuclear weapons were tested on tract houses in 1953. His penetrating analyses of American places as well as television shows, films, video games, and advertisements will appeal to readers in both American history and cultural studies.and#8221;
"In Outside the Gates of Eden Peter Hales offers a stunning reinterpretation of US cultural history after 1945. It explores the shadows and promises of a nuclear world marked by excessive dreams and paranoia, simulated perfection and scenarios of disaster."
"Peter Bacon Hales's Outside the Gates of Edenand#160; is simply the best reading of post-World War II American culture weand#8217;ve had or are likely to get. Hales makes sense of the seemingly disparate elements of America, from Levittown to I Love Lucy, from Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix, from the Atom Bomb to Pong.and#160;Beginning with the impossible reality of the atom bomb and ending with our retreat into the simulations of The Sims, Hales alternates between brilliant close readings of primary texts and comprehensive cultural analysis.and#160;Writing with authority at the top of his form, Hales has given us a text that is exciting as cultural history and essential for our self-understanding."
, Tom Brokaw, one of Americas premier journalists and the acclaimed author of The Greatest Generation, gives us an epic portrait of another defining era in America: the tumultuous Sixties. The voices and stories of both famous people and ordinary citizens come together in this “virtual reunion” as Brokaw takes us on a memorable journey through a remarkable time, exploring how individuals and the national mood were affected by a controversial era and showing how the aftershocks of the Sixties continue to resound in our lives today. In the reflections of a generation, Brokaw also discovers lessons that might guide us in the years ahead. Race, politics, war, feminism, popular culture, and music are all delved into here. Brokaw explores how members of this generation have gone on to bring activism and a Sixties mindset into individual entrepreneurship , as we hear stories of how this formative decade has shaped our perspectives on business, the environment, politics, family, and our national existence. Remarkable in its insights, wonderfully written and reported, this revealing book lets us join in these frank conversations about America then, now, and tomorrow.
Bonus DVD: Excerpt From 1968 with Tom Brokaw, A History Channel special
Praise for Boom!
“Tom Brokaw does an excellent job of capturing an exciting, controversial period in American history and Boom! is a worthy addition to his growing canon.”-New York Post
“[Tom Brokaw] approaches this magnum opus with warmth, curiosity and conviction, the same attributes that worked so well for his Greatest Generation.”
-The New York Times
“[A] verbal scrapbook of the Sixties . . . [Boom! shows] that the eras core issues-racism, womens rights, a nation-dividing war-remain central today, and that the values boomers championed havent yet gone bust.”
-People (four stars)
“Packed with memorable people, places, events . . . A ‘virtual reunion of 1960s folks telling what they did back then, where theyve been since and how they assess that tumultuous decade.”
“Genuinely fascinating recollections . . . plenty of memorable anecdotes.”
-The Wall Street Journal
With the bestseller "The Greatest Generation," Brokaw defined for America what it had meant to come of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Now, the veteran newsman takes readers into the tumultuous decade of the 1960s--a decade of turbulence and change. Illustrated.
Outside the Gates of Edenand#160;(referring to a song by Bob Dylan) tells the story of how the United States has struggled over our sense of self, as individuals and as a nation and culture, ever since becoming a global power in WWII.and#160; The book explores an interwoven set of themes: the recurrent nightmare of atomic and environmental holocaust, the changing positions of women, men and children in the home and in the culture, the creative tensions between subculture and corporate-dominated culture, the secret languages of American life, and the interpenetration of the physical, imaginative and virtual worlds in a new American geography driven by media and entertainment. Overarching these narratives is a larger story:and#160; the continuing attempt of Americansand#151;individuals, families, social and cultural groups, and the biggest corporate and governmental institutionsand#151;to define and control the master narrative of American life and its larger meaning by occupying its spaces, real and mythic.
Exhilaration and anxiety, the yearning for community and the quest for identity: these shared, contradictory feelings course through Outside the Gates of Eden
, Peter Bacon Halesand#8217;s ambitious and intoxicating new history of America from the atomic age to the virtual age.
Born under the shadow of the bomb, with little security but the cold comfort of duck-and-cover, the postwar generations lived throughand#151;and ledand#151;some of the most momentous changes in all of American history. Hales explores those decades through perceptive accounts of a succession of resonant moments, spaces, and artifacts of everyday lifeand#151;drawing unexpected connections and tracing the intertwined undercurrents of promise and peril. From sharp analyses of newsreels of the first atomic bomb tests and the invention of a new ideal American life in Levittown; from the music emerging from the Brill Building and the Beach Boys, and a brilliant account of Bob Dylanand#8217;s transformations; from the painful failures of communes and the breathtaking utopian potential of the early days of the digital age, Hales reveals a nation, and a dream, in transition, as a new generation began to make its mark on the world it was inheriting.
Full of richly drawn set-pieces and countless stories of unforgettable moments, Outside the Gates of Eden is the most comprehensive account yet of the baby boomers, their parents, and their children, as seen through the places they built, the music and movies and shows they loved, and the battles they fought to define their nation, their culture, and their place in what remains a fragile and dangerous world.
About the Author
Tom Brokaw is the author of five best sellers: The Greatest Generation, The Greatest Generation Speaks, An Album of Memories, A Long Way from Home
, and BOOM!
A native of South Dakota, he graduated from the University of South Dakota
with a degree in political science. He began his journalism career in Omaha and Atlanta before joining NBC News in 1966.
Brokaw was the White House correspondent for NBC News during Watergate, and from 1976 to 1981 he anchored Today
on NBC. He was the sole anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw
from 1983 to 2005. He continues
to report for NBC News, producing long-form documentaries and providing expertise during breaking news events. Brokaw has won every major award in broadcast journalism,
including two DuPonts, a Peabody Award, and several
Emmys. He lives in New York and Montana.
Table of Contents
An Introductionand#160;Chapter 1: The Atomic SublimeChapter 2: Bombing the West, 1951Chapter 3: Tracking Shot: Miracle on 34th Street
and the Birth of an Atomic AmericaChapter 4: Looking at LevittownChapter 5: Levittownandrsquo;s Palimpsest: Colored SkinChapter 6: Mr. Levittandrsquo;s TelevisionChapter 7: The Incredible Exploding House, Yucca Flat, Nevada, March, 1953Chapter 8: Lucy!
Chapter 9: Technologies of Space and Place, 1962Chapter 10: Two Satellites, 1962Chapter 11: Portable Communities: Radio, 1962Chapter 12: Dylanandrsquo;s AmericaChapter 13: Hendrix on Mt. PisgahChapter 14: Counter-LandscapesChapter 15: Retreating to UtopiaChapter 16: Pong
versus Computer Space
, 1972Chapter 17. Simericaand#160;AcknowledgmentsNotesIndex
Reading Group Guide
stages a virtual class reunion of the Sixties generation. As Tom Brokaw observes, "Reunions are funny things. Not everyone chooses to attend them" (xxiii). Some people turn up, some do not. Which voices in the book resonated deeply with your own experience? Who else might have been included in your version of a 1960s reunion?
2. Tom Brokaw believes we will not "crack the code" of the Sixties for some time. Why do you think this is true? What about the Sixties generation makes it a particularly enigmatic decade to figure out?
3. Representative John Lewis laments the permanence of race and poverty in American life and says: "There have been unbelievable changes for the better in politics and in the economy. But back in the Sixties, people had a sense of hope. I think we've lost that" (54). Do you agree that Americans, and specifically black Americans, are less hopeful than in decades past?
4. Consider activist and politician Tom Hayden's proposition: “Theres a big ‘what if over the Sixties. . . . Who knows what would have happened if King and Kennedy were alive?” (33) How might the country have been transformed? What would be different today?
5. In Boom!, former president Bill Clinton says: "If you thought something good came out of the Sixties, you're probably a Democrat; if you thought the Sixties were bad, you're probably a Republican" (xvi). Do you agree? Could a similar statement be made of today's generation and political landscape, or would the opposite be true?
6. Tom Brokaw's first and most autobiographical chapter, "A Loss of Innocence," relates his personal journey through the 1960s. If you were writing a memoir of your own experience of this pivotal time, what title would your story have and why?
7. Some see the war in Iraq as a second Vietnam. Former Marine Ron Armella says, “Those of us who were in Vietnam know its the same damn scenario. For a time we thought we were never going to get out of Vietnam; now I dont know if well ever get out of Iraq. It is such a parallel” (469). Assess the similarities and differences between the two wars, generational politics, and the country's attitudes then and now. How much has changed? How much has remained the same? Have we embraced the lessons of the Vietnam War?
8. In "A Woman's Place," writer Nora Ephron comments that “there is no womens movement today” (203). Do you agree? What advances did women make in the 1960s and what issues are yet to be resolved? Gloria Steinem admits that she didn't anticipate that "after decades, [gender equality] would still be unrealized" (207). With so much work left to do, who is a voice for women in today's culture, and what is at stake? Discuss also Senator Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign; is this evidence of a huge step forward for women, or of a long way still to go?
9. To some, the Sixties generation is synonymous with sex, drugs, and rock and roll. To others, it was a time of great patriotism and serious conflict. What did the 1960s mean for you, or for your parents?
10. Some of the most compelling stories in Boom! come from ordinary citizens far from the public spotlight, such as Tom and Nellie Coakley in "A Place Called Vietnam" or Charlene Priester and Ouida Atkins in "A Dream Fulfilled and a Dream Deferred." Discuss the everyday people or unsung heroes in Boom! whose stories echoed most strongly for you and why. How do their experiences compare or contrast with stereotypical perceptions of the time?
11. Tom Brokaw describes the 1965 Watt's Riots as a wake-up call for the nation that should have resolved many of the racial issues that still divided the country more than a century after the Civil War. As Brokaw notes, there has been so much progress, but still much despair. Why did America fail to heed the "wake-up call" of Watts? Fast-forwarding to 2005, consider the nation's response to Hurricane Katrina; how and when will the call be answered?
12. Do you agree with Stan Sanders when he says, "The state of black men in America is in free fall" (317)? Discuss this view in relation to today's political arena, the prison system, education, and the dissolution of the family. What changes still need to be made to realize Dr. Martin Luther King's American dream?
13. Boom! is also a story of how people can "do a one-eighty." Tom Turnipseed, once an aid to Georgia's Governor George Wallace, experienced a "conversion." How has he become an advocate for racial equality? Who else in the book experienced a personal revolution? Have you or someone you know had a similar sea change in your own views? What caused it?
14. General Wayne Downing notes that “It took ten or fifteen years before people were proud of serving in Vietnam” (446). Why do you think this is the case? Has America changed its attitude toward its serving men and women and the politics of war since the Sixties? Also, discuss Garry Trudeau's experience with his Doonesbury comic strip; do you think Americans appreciate strongly enough the idea that Iraq is not just a political matter, but a personal issue as well?
15. How were the 1960s a response to all that came before? Consider Senator Hillary Clinton's proposition: "…it's always struck me as curious that the Greatest Generation produced the Sixties generation. What were the sort of unmet aspirations, dreams, the frustrations that our parents had that led us to a period of ferment and rebellion and questioning of authority?" (404).
16. Regarding the war in Vietnam, Dr. Les Gelb remembers, "We were so busy in the Pentagon, we never watched the news-and the disconnect became greater and greater” (138). Decades later, during the Bush administration and the war in Iraq, the country experienced a similar disconnect between what politicians did and what the public believed. How did this happen? What lessons should have been learned from the country's experience in Vietnam?
17. What soundtrack comes to mind when you think "The Sixties"? Which songs, lyrics or voices do you hear, and why? What made the Sixties generation so supremely "cool"? Has any other generation come close? Why do you think many members of that generation still have such a strong connection with the culture of their past?
18. Discuss Pat Buchanan's assessment that “Nineteen sixty-eight was two sides of the same coin. Everything came apart for the Democrats and together for the Republicans” (32-33). How has party politics changed since then, and what future do you foresee for the Democratic and Republican parties of the decades to come?
19. Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner says that today, parents and children can share in popular culture. This was not the case in the 1960s, which saw a vast disparity between youth culture and adulthood. Now, he says, "there's no generation gap" (530). Do you agree? How does life for today's adolescents compare with the youths of those who came of age in the Sixties?
20. As Tom Brokaw notes, some of the twenty-first century's most successful and creative entrepreneurs emerged from Sixties culture. Who were some of these innovators and how were they influenced by the 1960s? Going further, how are todays radio, film, internet and digital music an offspring of the mentality that emerged from the 1960s? Consider Tom Brokaw's statement: "Who could have guessed in the heady days of the Sixties that pocket electronics would become the realization of that popular but amorphous slogan 'Power to the people!"? (561).
21. Dr. Judith Rodin, the first female president of an Ivy League university, offers an interesting perspective: “I used to think you could have it all. Now I believe you can have it all, but not all at the same time. There are costs to every decision” (221). How is this view reflected in the choices women face today? Why do women today often feel it necessary to pit one's choices against the other?
22. On the official website for Boom! www.boom-brokaw.com, Tom Brokaw lists Billboard's top 10 songs (from "Tighten Up" to "Hey Jude") and Television's most popular shows (from "The Beverly Hillbillies" to "Laugh In.") Review these lists — what are your favorites? What memories do they spark?
23. As Tom Brokaw reports in Boom!, in an interview with New York magazine in 2006, Barack Obama gave the following critique of the Sixties generation: "To some degree…we have seen the psychodrama of the baby boom generation play out over the last forty years. When you watch Clinton versus Gingrich, or Gore versus Bush, or Kerry versus Bush, you feel like these are fights that were taking place back in dorm rooms in the Sixties." (346). What did Obama mean, and do you agree?
24. Tom Brokaw recognizes that "We are profoundly changed in so many ways and yet so much the same in so many others" (35). In what ways has America transformed itself since the 1960s, and how is the nation still the same? Evaluate the 2008 Presidential campaigns of John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama — are they proof that the country is ready to embrace much of what the 1960s stood for, or to the contrary, that there is still a long way to go?
25. Boom! ends with a photograph of the Earth as seen from the Apollo 8 mission of December 1968. Why do you think Tom Brokaw leaves us with this image of the "Whole Earth"? Discuss Stewart Brand's interpretation of the photo: it's about "seeing what connects rather than what divides" (611).