War Babies: The Generation that Changed America
By: Richard Pells
War Babies is a wonderful and extremely readable book about a cross-section of the population who were born between 1939 and 1945. It is a book that readers will want to read and re-read over and over again.
According to Pells, war babies changed the whole world. Those changes shaped the world we now live and will continue to for the future as well. War babies are more resilient and successful than people born either before this time or after. This is quite an interesting premise, and a very unique idea for a book.
Pells discusses four themes in the book. First, Pells believes that war babies produced the culture and political attitudes we were living with ever since. Secondly, war babies were the architects of a value system that was less communal and more private. It was also a system that was more suspicious of the benefits of government policy, political power and organizations. Thirdly, war babies provided a unique perspective on America which was darker and more pessimistic than for previous and future generations. This skepticism characterizes American culture even today. Fourthly, war babies were survivors of both the Depression and World War II. Because of this, they have a lot more resilience and can cope better than anyone in the past or future.
Thus, war babies renovated the cultural and political landscapes. Their art and activities transfigured modern America. This book is a tribute to war babies. And it is definitely a tribute worth making, given the fact that so many talented musicians and singers such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joanie Mitchell, Judy Collins, Simon and Garfunkel, actors such as Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, journalists such as Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, athlete/activists such as Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, civil rights activists such as Mario Savio, Tom Hayden, John Lewis, Barney Frank, and politicians such as John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Dick Cheney who were born in these years. They became adults in the early 1960’s.
There was something important about growing up during a time of upheaval and uncertainty. People brought up during these years never took anything for granted and they knew that unless they worked hard nothing was going to come to them easily. So, they developed a discipline and passion for whatever they were truly gifted doing. The war babies taught us that we should not take things for granted but we should work hard to achieve anything that we really are passionate about. And that is a wonderful thing to strive to achieve. If only kids today believed that.
Tags: Movies, music, TV, radio, Al Pacino, Cold War, architecture, culture, McCarthyism, painting, actors, generation
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by: Irene S. Roth