In Print : In My Life - A fresh look at how we really were in the 60s
"In My Life," by Tom Dresser, Red Lead Press, 2009, $17.00.
Oak Bluffs resident and author Tom Dresser has written a short, quiet novel about coming of age in the 1960s. It is a pleasant read but the bite is in the aftertaste - having experienced a clear look at what living in America in the 60s was really like.
Time tends to rewrite history in broad strokes and we are conditioned to think of the era as a long decade of American turmoil and social change. "In My Life" reminds those of us who grew up then, that the 60s wasn't a decade of public social change. Change was packed into its final four or five years.
Readers who came of age in that decade are reminded that life felt very much like the decades before it. For those who didn't experience the 60s, "In My Life" actually underscores how completely the social order changed forever in 10 years. In fact, after reading the book, the thought occurred that much of the social change attributed to that decade actually occurred in the 70s.
This reader finished the book also thinking that while the traction for change built slowly over the decade, people power in the 60s was a hurricane released in a short period of time at the end of the decade. Its intensity and impact surprised most of us as much as it did our parents and our government.
But the shoots and tendrils were there in mid-decade and that is where Mr. Dresser has gone for the book's tension. Teenage sweethearts Rusty and Jodie are learning both how to be in the world and are trying out new options in their personal choices and values. In 1965, the coda for a new social order was unwritten and the old rules didn't fit.
When Jodie and Rusty come of age in a sleepy central Massachusetts town in 1965, their view of the future did not imagine that an enormous social change event like Woodstock would take place only four years later.
Rusty has completed one year of college and Jodie is graduating from high school with her sights set on Boston University in the fall. The notion of sit-ins at the dean's office is not part of the agenda.
It is clear in this somewhat autobiographical tale that protest marches had not replaced a trip to the ice cream shop.
For Jodie and Rusty, the trick is to figure out how to solve age-old life issues with new, unformed solutions. They faced the same issues their parents and grandparents faced but came up with different solutions.