I'm still trying to conquer my book stack at the flat in Greenpoint.
I really fell in love with a book PJ lent me, Promise of a Dream: Remembering the Sixties by Sheila Rowbotham.
I’ve been greatly enjoying Rowbotham’s personal reflections about her intellectual, emotional, and spiritual evolutions over the decade that very closely encompassed her 20s. I also enjoyed the musical and fashion-related recollections (especially since I saw Nowhere Boy last week).
Rowbotham lived through her 20s in Europe—mostly in Britain (she attended the women’s counterpart to Oxford in the early 60s, when universities were still men-only), though she fit in with French beats and Spanish surfers here and there.
I’ve been relating to Rowbotham as a fellow nomad—geographically and intellectually—wandering through her 20s. While our experiences aren’t identical by any stretch, I am moved when a familiar note is struck.
About her introduction to politics as an undergrad history student: “I still did not identify cultural rebellion or radical approaches to history with ‘politics,’ which I thought was merely about power and ambition. However, I was beginning to shift away from an exclusive preoccupation with the personal and to consider broad social factors. This rearrangement of my mentality, combined with an inclination to revolt, disposed me to the left. It was not only to be books and ideas which exerted an influence, but the kindness of several older people towards me.”
Discovering that even a counterculture can be sexist: “Women, I noted, operated within the narrow spaces allotted to femininity, as assertive hip chicks, academic women, mother-goddesses, geisha-type sex symbols, independent girly-girls, being matter of fact or in taking comfort in dismissing men. I thought we jumped in and out of these modes of being and that our discomfort about how to ‘be’ put us at a disadvantage in relation to men.”
Growing older/growing up? “I was nearly 25, about to hit that old borderline which, only a few years earlier, had seemed to mean you were definitely grown up. But I wasn’t feeling grown up at all. We had moved all the signposts anyway and nothing signified what it had done then. I had no clear idea how to live in the new space.”
Also, I am finally facing up to the biggest shame of my book stack: The Other America: Poverty in the United States by Michael Harrington.
I picked up this first paperback edition at Downtown Books in Milwaukee my senior year... so that would make it sometime in 2007 or 2008! It's come with me to Ripon, Madison, New Jersey and Cape Town. Enough is enough!
|Thank you Bud Johnson, wherever you are...|
I'd heard this book referenced in undergrad classes; as a matter of fact, Rowbotham reflected on reading it in Promise of a Dream. And when I picked up this copy, I noticed a relevant clipping for the New York Times was tucked away inside of it...