Making History: Six Books That Embrace the 1970s ‹ Literary Hub

It’s almost shocking to think that what was once electrical literature in the 1970s is now historical fiction. Fifty years in the past, this is no longer what we once thought was the latest we thought, even though it was the era of women’s rights, gay rights, Watergate, the Vietnam War, and bell bottoms.

Fast-forward to the present day, and books set in the 1970s still recall dramatic stories in American and world history that resonate in powerful ways. All fiction arises from human events whether real or imagined, but historical fiction pays more attention to the facts that create those events in terms of time, place, and character. There is accountability in place that invites authors to invent fictional aspects around a central fact.

My picks for six defining 1970s-era books – now considered historical fiction – cross continents and heritages, each exploring how characters rise to meet challenges and struggles as they confront cultural and other differences and exploring the challenges inherent during that period, many of which, with their central facts, still resonate with me while I come back to her.


Daisy Jones and six

Taylor Jenkins Reid Daisy Jones and the Six
(Palantine books)

Immerse yourself in the rock and roll scene of the 1970s in Los Angeles, Daisy Jones and the Six It features the unlikely pairing of beautiful rookie singer Daisy Jones and Billy Dunn, lead guitarist of The Six. Individually, they experiment with drugs, sex, and rock and roll. But when a director suggested that Billy and Daisy do a duet on Six’s second album, “Honeycomb” became an instant hit and invited Daisy to join the band. “It’s what I’ve always loved about music,” Daisy says. “It’s not the sounds, the crowds, or the good times so much as the words—the feelings, the stories, the truth—that you can let flow straight out of your mouth. Music can drillingyou know?” Although this novel at times reaches familiar stereotypes, it captures the abundance of a unique moment in our culture and creates a gritty and memorable account of this fictional band’s rise to fame.

Under the lion's eye

Maaza Mengiste, under the lion’s gaze
(WW Norton)

It takes place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1974, on the eve of the revolution to overthrow Emperor Haile SelassieAnd the Mingist’s first novel tells the story of what happened from multiple perspectives. The novel begins in a hospital operating room, where a boy who was shot during a protest undergoes surgery for a bullet wound. Hilo, the doctor who operated on him, has a complicated story of his own. His wife, Salam, was hospitalized in the building’s intensive care unit with congestive heart failure and refused treatment. His two adult sons, Dawit and Jonas, react to the political climate in very different ways – one as a pacifist, the other as an activist. Unrest in the city intensifies as famine increases, torture becomes routine, and corpses are left rotting in the streets.

When Hailu ordered the treatment of a woman who had been tortured so violently that he knew she could not survive further interrogation, he gave her cyanide. After he is imprisoned and tortured to help her commit suicide, his sons reunite and move to work. Mengiste’s revelation of this story is deep and lively and I trusted her voice throughout to reveal many truths. Despite the violence, disorder, and crimes against humanity, the novel is smooth and powerful.

chasing kakiato

Tim O’Brien, Go after kakiato
(Broadway books)

At the same time that the facts of Daisy Jones and Billy Dunn are clearly compelling within the context of the rock ‘n’ roll scene, elsewhere in the world, the Vietnam War was in conflict from 1955 until the fall of Saigon in 1975. Real-life combat chronicles the veteran’s novel Tim O’Brien, which won the 1979 National Book Award, a non-linear path by Paul Berlin who decided that being a soldier in Vietnam on a regular service tour entails constant walking, and if he were to put all the walking in a straight line, he would end up in Paris , where AWOL Private Cacciato heads, and Berlin begins to follow.

The novel begins with a series incantation about the dead: “It was a bad time. Billy Boy Watkins was dead and so was Frenchie Tucker. Billy Boy died of fright, frightened to death on the battlefield, and Frenchie Tucker was shot in the nose. Bernie Lane and Lieutenant Sidney Martin died in the tunnels Matt Pederson and Matt Rudi Schachsler Matt Buff, and Mate Ready Mix… Rain-fueled fungi that grew in men’s shoes and socks and stockings rotted, and their feet became so white and soft that their skin could be scraped off with fingernails…” in Vietnam he could never have imagined The harsh and painful realities of engaging in this war, O’Brien has created a necessary cauldron of reality that summons lifelong suffering and alienation.

Kushner flamethrowers

Rachel Kushner flame throwers

Enters The The seventies world of conceptual art, motorcycle racing, upper-class Italy and the rampant kidnappings and terror that accompanied it. Reno, a young artist from Nevada with a history of downhill skiing and dirt bike racing, moves to Little Italy in New York City to try and make it into the art world. She became involved with Sandro, an older artist and heir to a family motorcycle and tire fortune whose father, Valera, was a former WWI member of Arditi, famous for attacking the enemy with flamethrowers. Are artists, as Valera suggests, “those who are of no use in anything else?” Or is the answer what Sandro believed in: “Art-making was about the problem and loss of the soul. It was a technique to inhabit the world. To not dissolve into it.” Kushner’s lively talent for designing controversies, her take on the idea of ​​”speed” in its various forms, and her quest to understand what makes art and what makes him an artist makes this an active read.

runs in the family

Michael Ondaatje, Running in the family

The language in these fictional notes consists of a kind of transcendental poetry. Ondaatje, a native of Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka) who moved to Britain when he was eleven years old and then spent most of his life in Canada. In the late 1970s, he returned to Sri Lanka to trace the legends of his Dutch-Sylon family and search for evidence of his ancestry.

He began: “What started it all was the shining bone of an idea hard for me to stick to. I slept at a friend’s house. I saw my parents, in a mess, surrounded by dogs, all of them screaming and barking in the tropical landscape.” Ondaatje traveled on the railways his family rode, went to homes, race courses, and harbors, and stood in the monsoons – where he knew they were. He writes: “I wanted to put it into words.” In the past he was looking for circles around him, although he could not clearly touch them. This book inspires me every time I read it, or I read sections of it, which can be appreciated separately or in a linear fashion.

Colum McCannAnd the Let the great world revolve
(random house)

Several threads intersect in this non-linear novel that won the 2009 National Book Award. The story unfolds against the backdrop of the famous acrobatic walk Philip Petty in August 1974 through the tightrope between the Twin Towers, and the author returns periodically to this event throughout the book. About Betty, McCann says, “He was a purity on the move. . . . he was both inside and outside his body, immersed in what it means to belong in the air.” Next, there’s a shift in time and space to Ireland to meet Corrigan, a young monk, and his brother Kieran, who soon land in the South Bronx in the 1970s against the backdrop of crumbling New York City.

As Corrigan’s ministers to the prostitutes who congregate under the highway and Ciaran tending the pub in an Irish pub on Queen, a group of mothers gather in an uptown apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother who turns tricks on her daughter’s side, An artist witnesses a hit and run. These seemingly disparate voices come together to form a contrasting effect, creating a simultaneous vision of the city with its hopes, dreams, and shocks. Part of the book’s beauty is evoked with the continuous depictions of heaven and earth, McCann’s concern for danger, and the elegance and bravery of walkers on a tightrope.

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