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Le Boom, C'est Moi: Anchorman-turned-historian Tom Brokaw's new book, 'Boom,' includes his own stories from the '60s.

Tom Brokaw Goes 'Boom!' at the Rio

Following his bestseller 'The Greatest Generation,' the newsman looks at the Sixties.

By Steve Hahn

When Tom Brokaw rolls into the Rio Theater on Nov. 8, he'll bring a refreshingly down-to-earth analysis of the last 50 years with him. The retired NBC news anchor is visiting to promote his new book, Boom!, which chronicles the '60s by collecting the experiences of the generation that went through it. It follows his 1998 bestseller The Greatest Generation, which documented the generation that came of age during WWII.

Boom!, subtitled Voices of the Sixties: Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today, spans 600 pages and leaves almost no stone unturned in its quest to document the American experience of the 1960s. Race, culture, drugs, war, politics and feminism are all given a fresh look—not just for how these forces shaped the nation then, but for how they still affect us today. Boom! implies shockwaves.

Rather than relying on his own analysis to guide the reader, Brokaw lets the primary actors in these various dramas do the talking. His narrative is mostly limited to the telling of his own stories about the time, which are just as illuminating in their way as the stories of the more prominent figures he interviews.

The first issue Brokaw probes is the civil rights movement. In this section, readers get the insider's perspective on a movement struggling to rein in militant elements, keep the issue of Vietnam off the table and survive despite frequently violent attempts to keep its members "in their place." On the other side of the race debate, the interview with Alabama Gov. George Wallace's campaign manager, Tom Turnipseed, gives a glimpse of the nasty racism that lay behind that presidential campaign.

In an interview with Metro Santa Cruz, Brokaw said the civil rights leaders he spoke with think there is room to continue the positive changes made in race relations during the '60s.

"They believe it is time to move to the next stage of dealing with the lingering effects of desperate poverty levels and the break-up of the family culture," Brokaw said.

In his treatment of the Vietnam War, Brokaw skirts the political in favor of a personal approach, focusing more on the individuals stuck deciding whether or not to serve than on the politics of the war itself. The book follows the stories of many who did serve, including Virginia Sen. James Webb, and some who opted to dodge the draft. In all cases the war became a defining point in the lives of these individuals. Brokaw told Metro, "I was most impressed by the Vietnam veterans who went through such terrible ordeals at an early age and yet managed to put their lives together and continue, in many instances, public service." Boom! also chronicles the women's rights movement and its continued effect on national politics through interviews with movement leaders like Gloria Steinem. Perhaps more surprisingly, it contains a chapter featuring interviews with contemporary political figures, including both Clintons, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. Here readers get the most explicit look at how the politics of the '60s divided the nation. The neo-conservative movement now in power, after all, was partially a reaction to the perceived narcissism, moral degradation, and reckless abandon of the '60s generation.

"What is often overlooked in popular histories of the time are the political passions of those on the right," says Brokaw.

When all is said and done, Brokaw reminds readers that the United States is still wrestling with many of the questions brought up during that tumultuous decade, and he urges the conversation to continue. Luckily, Santa Cruz residents will have a chance to talk with the man himself.

"Santa Cruz was a hotbed of activism and the counter-culture during the Sixties," Brokaw says, explaining his stop here so soon after the book's Nov. 6 release. "Besides, I love the area."

TOM BROKAW appears on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7:30pm at the Rio Theater, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets and copies of 'Boom!' are available at Capitola Book Café, 1475 41st Ave., Capitola, 831.462.4415,, or by visiting 1475 41st. Ave, Capitola. Tickets $25 without book purchase; $12 with.

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