Friday, August 8, 2014

Flashback Fridays: The Turbulent 1960s

Maria takes on the decade of change:
The 60’s was a very turbulent decade with man’s first landing on the moon, the Vietnam war, Woodstock, and Civil Rights movement among momentous events.  The following books are just a few representative of the decade.

The Red Umbrella by Christina Díaz González
Lucía is a typical teenager living Cuba in 1961 just as Castro’s regime takes hold of the island.  Her parents, afraid for her safety send her along with little brother Frankie to the US where she is settled in Nebraska, as part of “Operación Pedro Pan”, the largest exodus of unaccompanied children ever in the history of the Western Hemisphere, through the sponsorship of the Catholic Welfare Bureau.  

Lucía has to learn to cope with the feelings of separation from her loved ones and with the responsibility of caring for her little brother, along with attending a new school, getting used to her foster family.  These feelings will ring true to any immigrant and Lucía’s voice is genuine and real.  A nice list of Spanish words and phrases used in the book are included in the back.

Fourteen-year-old Rosa is growing up in a Puerto Rican East Harlem barrio in 1969.  She, as most teens, is searching for her own identity.  She clashes with her traditional mother and when her activist grandmother moves in, Rosa who has changed her name to Evelyn, finds a role model.  Evelyn joins the Young Lords, a political activist group who is trying to bring attention to the plight of the Puerto Ricans living in NYC.  Teens will empathize with Rosa (Evelyn) from the very beginning for you don’t have to be of any ethnic minority in order to feel this teen’s feelings.  With a smattering of Spanish words, this debut novel is really worth reading.  You won’t be sorry you picked it up.

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
Sam Childs, fourteen-years-old is growing up in Chicago in 1968.  His father is a pacifist and follower of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  and Sam shares his views.  However, Sam’s older brother Stick, who is seventeen, has recently joined the Black Panthers, a group that advocates action and not pacifism.  After Sam and his girlfriend Maxie witness the brutal beating of a friend by the police, Sam starts questioning his father’s views.  Family conflict is at the heart of this debut novel and all the characters spring to life.  This novel’s sequel Fire in the Streets, offers a glimpse of the turbulent decade, this time from Maxie’s viewpoint.

War & Watermelon by Rich Wallace
New Jersey, 1969.  In this diary like novel, twelve-year-old Brody is on the brink of teen hood.  He has many serious issues to contend with among which are:  older brother Ryan who is turning eighteen and will probably be drafted and go to Viet Nam, worries about making the football team, and an awakening feelings for girls.  His brother takes him to Woodstock where he gets a glimpse of hippies and drugs and of course music.  Events such as the first moonwalk, the music of the time, divergent feelings about the war in Viet Nam are all well integrated in this novel- you get the feel of accompanying Brody in this part of his life.

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