Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Century Project: Fiction, 1900-1999, Pt. 8: The 1970s

--by Hanje Richards

The Century Project: Part 8, Fiction from the 1970s

The Copper Queen Library is the oldest continuously-operating public library in Arizona. I often tell visitors this fact, and it got me thinking… We have intentionally kept a lot of older books here in our lovely old building. We have a lot of books that were published in the early years of the 1900s, as well as mid-century books and titles all the way to the end of the century still on our shelves.

Our blogs and displays often focus on the new and contemporary, but what about all the history reflected by the books in this wonderful 100+ year old building?

Here are some of the books from our collection published in the 1970s that have become classics:

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (Judy Blume) – In this 1970 breakthrough novel, Margaret Simon, almost twelve, has just moved from New York City to the suburbs, and she’s anxious to fit in with her new friends. When she’s asked to join a secret club, she jumps at the chance. But, when the girls start talking about boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret starts to wonder if she’s normal. There are some things about growing up that are hard for her to talk about, even with her friends. Lucky for Margaret, she’s got someone else to confide in . . . someone who always listens.

The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison) - Told from the perspective of Claudia MacTeer as a child and adult, as well as from a third-person, omniscient viewpoint, this 1970 novel is the story of a year in the life of Pecola, a young black girl in Lorain, Ohio in the years following the Great Depression. Because of the controversial nature of the book, which deals with racism, incest, and child molestation, there have been numerous attempts to ban it from schools and libraries.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Richard Bach) - A 1970 fable in novella form about a seagull learning about life and flight, this is the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, bored with the daily squabbles over food and seized by a passion for flight. He pushes himself, learning everything he can about flying, until finally his unwillingness to conform results in his expulsion from his flock. An outcast, he continues to learn, becoming increasingly pleased with his abilities as he leads an idyllic life.

Roots (Alex Haley) – This historical novel from 1976 is the story of the Haley family. It begins with a birth in 1750, in an African village; it ends seven generations later at the Arkansas funeral of a black professor whose children are a teacher, a Navy architect, an assistant director of the U.S. Information Agency, and an author – Alex Haley. Haley tells the tale of Kunta Kinte, an 18th-century African captured as an adolescent and sold into slavery in the United States, and his descendants. With his meticulous research on African village customs, slave-trading, and the history of Africans in America, Haley has written, in this tale of one family, the history of every family in America that traces its roots back to Africa from the 16th through the early 19th centuries.

Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison) – This 1977 novel follows the life of Macon "Milkman" Dead III, an African-American male living in Michigan, from birth to adulthood. It won the National Books Critics Award, was chosen for Oprah Winfrey's popular book club, and was cited by the Swedish Academy in awarding Morrison the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. A novel of large beauty and power, it creates a magical world out of four generations of black life in America, a world we enter on the birthday of “Milkman” Dead and leave on the day of his death.

Sophie’s Choice (William Styron) – Styron’s first novel, published in 1979 and awarded the National Book Award in 1980, opens with Stingo, a young Southerner, journeying to New York in 1947 to become a writer. It leads us into his intellectual and emotional entanglement with his neighbors in a Brooklyn rooming house: Nathan, a tortured, brilliant Jew, and his lover, Sophie, a beautiful Polish woman whose wrist bears the grim tattoo of a concentration camp... and whose past is strewn with death that she alone survived.

The Winds of War (Herman Wouk) - The Winds of War, published in 1971, is Herman Wouk's second book about World War II, the first being The Caine Mutiny (1951), and the third being War and Remembrance (1978). Winds revolves around a mixture of real and fictional characters, all connected in some way to the extended family of Victor "Pug" Henry, a middle-aged Naval Officer and confidant of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The story begins six months before Germany's invasion of Poland and ends shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the United States enters the war. Mixed into the text are "excerpts" from a book written by one of the book's fictional characters, German general Armin von Roon, while he was imprisoned for war crimes.

The World According to Garp (John Irving) – This 1978 novel tells the story of T. S. Garp. His mother, Jenny Fields, is a strong-willed nurse who wants a child but not a husband. Jenny raises young Garp alone, taking a position at an all-boys school. Garp grows up, becoming interested in sex, wrestling, and writing fiction — three topics in which his mother has little interest. He launches his writing career, courts and marries the wrestling coach's daughter, and fathers three children. Meanwhile, his mother suddenly becomes a feminist icon after publishing a best-selling autobiography. Garp becomes a devoted parent, wrestling with anxiety for the safety of his children and a desire to keep them safe from the dangers of the world. He and his family inevitably experience dark and violent events through which the characters change and grow.