How I loved the 1964 Bob Dylan song The Times They Are A’Changin’ when I was at Cal Berkeley. I knew every line by heart, sang them triumphantly with my friends, intoned them under my breath, marching in time to the music as I took the long walk to campus for class. My favorite verse, once screeched at my conservative parents (who snickered throughout my performance):
“Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.”
And yet, last night, surrounded by over one hundred of my peers for the launch of the anthology, Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ‘60s & ‘70s (She Writes Press), at Books Inc. in Berkeley, as Bill Polits strummed his guitar and asked us to all sing along, I couldn’t open my mouth and go with it. The words and melody jammed in my throat and I was afraid that if I tried to eject them, I’d get only nostalgic bawling!
I am so proud to be included in this collection of powerful stories and poems about the various “cultures” of my era – political, artistic, experimental, feminist, etc. When editors Kate Farrell, Linda Joy Myers and Amber Lea Starfire came up with the concept of doing a writing contest and book, I got a dozen emails. “Enter!” they commanded. “This is your subject!” Sand Hill Review Press had just published my novel, A Time to Cast Away Stones, about friends and lovers contending with events in 1968 Berkeley and Paris. Yet, I hesitated. I had never written a memoir before, preferring the sheltering scrim of fictional characters and scenes.
In the end, one of my own experiences overtook my fears and I wrote “My People’s Park” – my own particular version of that historical Berkeley conflagration – and I won second place in prose.
At the launch last night, I was thrilled to finally meet my peers, the women who are brave and talented enough to expose their youthful strivings to a world of readers, and even more difficult and meaningful, to make sense of their experiences all these years later!
I loved seeing the faces and hearing the voices as they read from their own poems and stories, but perhaps my personal favorite part of the presentation were the introductions by the three editors. Kate, Linda and Amber first explained why they selected each piece (only 48 out of 265 entries!) and then told us a little bit about the writers and what they had done in their lives subsequent to their adventures 40 or 50 years ago.
Most of those sitting (and standing, too!) at Books Inc. last night were of the same generation as the readers. But as those introductions were being made, telling us about lives fully, energetically, and passionately lived, I wanted to place this book into the hands of younger people, men too, but especially young women. As they go through their own struggles, make their own difficult decisions, they might take heart from those who have lived through their younger years, and emerged able share what they remember and what they learned with such grace.
Media credit: Thanks to Jay Miller for the photos.