A Hard Rain

America in the 1960s, Our Decade of Hope, Possibility, and Innocence Lost

A Hard Rain

America in the 1960s, Our Decade of Hope, Possibility, and Innocence Lost

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An NPR Best Book of 2018

A 2021 Alabama Library Association Author Award Winner

Frye Gaillard has given us a deeply personal history, bringing his keen storyteller's eye to this pivotal time in American life. He explores the competing story arcs of tragedy and hope through the political and social movements of the times - civil rights, black power, women's liberation, the War in Vietnam, and the protests against it. But he also examines the cultural manifestations of change - music, literature, art, religion, and science - and so we meet not only the Brothers Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, but also Gloria Steinem, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Harper Lee, Mister Rogers, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, Andy Warhol, Billy Graham, Thomas Merton, George Wallace, Richard Nixon, Angela Davis, Barry Goldwater, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Berrigan Brothers.

"There are many different ways to remember the sixties," Gaillard writes, "and this is mine. There was in these years the sense of a steady unfolding of time, as if history were on a forced march, and the changes spread to every corner of our lives. As future generations debate the meaning of the decade, I hope to offer a sense of how it felt to have lived it. A Hard Rain is one writer's reconstruction and remembrance of a transcendent era - one that, for better or worse, lives with us still."

A totally absorbing read! Frye Gaillard takes us there and makes it all so real that we forget we're reading. Older readers will feel young, uncertain, and idealistic again. Younger readers will hope to find the courage of the 1960s - in politics, artistic expression, science - to improve the lot of all humankind on this precious earth. Gaillard's A Hard Rain is worthy of the best literary prizes our country can bestow.

—Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab's Wife, Four Spirits, and Abundance

A child of the Sixties and one of the leading civil-rights reporters of his generation, Frye Gaillard has given us a riveting tour along what he calls the fine line between history and journalism. As a reporter, he has witnessed a great deal and interviewed many of the key figures of the decade that shaped America's future while breaking its heart. As a scholar, he has read widely and thought deeply about our nation's halting pursuit of justice and mercy for all. A Hard Rain is essential reading for a time when an American president has willfully ignored the hard-earned lessons from our passage through the most tumultuous decade of social change since the Civil War.

—Howell Raines, former executive editor of The New York Times

The Sixties had it all - social movements and space exploration, once-in-a-generation musicians and once-in-a-lifetime martyrs, a Cold War and a hot one, too. A Hard Rain beautifully ties it all together in poetic prose that makes the pain and pleasure, tragedy and triumph of these tumultuous years come alive. Whether you came of age during the Sixties like author Frye Gaillard or were born after it like me, A Hard Rain is the new starting point for anyone who wants to understand the most impactful decade of the 20th century.

—Hasan Kwame Jeffries, professor of history, Ohio State University, author of Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt

Frye Gaillard has long been one of the South's most imaginative popular historians, and his remarkable gift for combining history and memory has never been more apparent than in his new book on the 1960s, A Hard Rain. Of the many books that have tried to capture the spirit and meaning of this tumultuous decade, A Hard Rain is surely among the best. Gaillard's mastery of the art of storytelling, along with his unerring accuracy in characterizing the era's leading political and cultural figures, turns his personal reflections into compelling and insightful history.

—Raymond Arsenault, author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice

A Hard Rain is a smart, readable survey, at once personal and universal, of a decade that is still under debate today. Taking a broadly synoptic view, Frye Gaillard focuses on small moments that yielded huge effects. The battle against racial division quickly emerges as a major theme in Gaillard's narrative, with mileposts such as Thurgood Marshall's key role in Supreme Court decisions about how it wasn't enough simply not to segregate; integration was required, too. An illuminating, you-are-there view of events on the ground in the turbulent 1960s.

—Kirkus Reviews

I'm swept away by how comprehensive A Hard Rain is, by its anecdotal style, its readability, the range of topics, ambition of the undertaking, and emotionality and intellectual integrity of the author. There has been a lot of attention these last few years to the 1960s as any number of fiftieth anniversaries have been celebrated. But these have been like drum solos. Frye Gaillard's book, with its mixture of the personal and scholarly, with its weaving together of so many stories, is simply symphonic. This is great work.

—Malcolm Margolin, author and award-winning editor and founder of Heyday and News from Native California

An enlightening picture of America at a historic juncture.

—Publishers Weekly Starred Review

As a history, A Hard Rain is exhaustive, recounting not only well-known events such as the Kennedy assassinations and the March on Washington but also dozens of less publicized incidents that spoke to the national mood. Frye Gaillard excels at weaving his own experiences of the decade without distracting from the overall narrative, and his research brings long-forgotten events to the fore. A full-scale, flowing journey through the decade.

—Library Journal

A Hard Rain traces the history of the raucous decade in which Frye Gaillard and this writer both grew up. The resulting work is one of those culmination-of-a-life's-work books most non-fiction writers can only dream about. The book is a powerful, engaging mix of concise, hard reporting with a strong narrative thrust and a personal touch. It's also a great read, in Gaillard's trademark knowledgeable but casual, nearly conversational style. A jaw-dropping popular history of the 1960s.

—Creative Loafing

The great strength of A Hard Rain is that the author deftly weaves together a narrative of people - some well-known and some less so - and their recollections. A Hard Rain has a broad sweep. It is impressive that the author was able to treat so many topics and details while maintaining a highly readable story. The synthesis here is superb. For those seeking to revisit a formative time in their life, or for others looking for an introduction to a hinge point of history, this is a terrific book.

—Washington Independent Review of Books

A Hard Rain vividly conveys the ethical and spiritual dimensions of hope, possibility, and innocence lost during this change-filled decade. An impressive book of cultural criticism.

—Spirituality & Practice

If you lived through the 1960s and still don't have a handle on that kaleidoscopic era, or if you've heard about the wacky Sixties and want to understand them, then run, don't walk, to your nearest bookseller and buy A Hard Rain: America in the 1960s, Our Decade of Hope, Possibility and Innocence Lost.

—Martha’s Vineyard Times

Commended

NPR Best Book of the Year, National Public Radio

About the Author/Editor

FRYE GAILLARD is the writer-in-residence in the English and history departments at the University of South Alabama. He is the author of twenty books, including With Music and Justice for All: Some Southerners and Their Passions; Cradle of Freedom: Alabama and the Movement That Changed America, winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award; The Dream Long Deferred: The Landmark Struggle for Desegregation in Charlotte, North Carolina, winner of the Gustavus Myers Award; and If I Were a Carpenter, the first independent, book-length study of Habitat for Humanity.