The founder of Salon and a writer for The New Yorker explore the 1960s and 1970s through the framework of a second American Revolution, focusing on the era's radical political movements and their leaders, including Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers, Heather Booth of the Jane Collective abortion clinic, Vietnam War peace activists Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, among others.
Taken as a whole, these engaging profiles suggest that revolutions are rarely a one-time deal ... Simple saviors and canned profiles in courage are not for them. These essays bristle with energy and contention. They enjoy a good rivalry. They’re aware that just about anyone with the gumption to start a movement might not play well with others. But the contributions, more often than not, make them worth the frustration. The chapter on the Black Panthers, Revolution Has Come, Time to Pick Up the Gun, is particularly dynamic ... the Talbots are guided by dogged reporting and an instinct for finding and telling a story. Even if you know these revolutionaries, you’ll find details here to surprise you. They might even make you want to go out and make a difference yourself.
How should we balance the accomplishments of the New Left with its failure to build a sturdy rival to the cautious liberals and confident neoliberals who have dominated the past half-century of U.S. politics and governance? David Talbot and Margaret Talbot, siblings and veteran journalists, have crafted a book of personal narratives rich with the kinds of details that might help answer such queries ... The book brims with vivid descriptions of how all these characters looked, dressed, got along with one another (or didn’t), and how they came across in public. The Talbots sprinkle in factual nuggets that might surprise even former activists from those years or the historians who write about them ... No one can accuse the Talbots of neglecting the fierce, diverse identities that composed and animated the ’60s left. They devote equal space to Native American rebels like Russell Means and Dennis Banks, Black leaders like Seale and Newton, the Chicano unionist Cesar Chavez, the white antiwar activists Hayden and Fonda, feminists like Booth, and gay liberationists like Rodwell. They also describe how inequalities of race and gender—and fame—often kept like-minded rebels from accomplishing more.
In these self-contained accounts, the authors clearly admire the courage, political savvy, and sheer physical effort required to create and then sustain such critical movements, but they’re also unsparing in saying that mistakes were made ... As a result, the Talbots have created a coherent narrative of mid-century political activism, from which readers can see the through lines of modern-day success or failure, and proceed from there.