Beth Bailey

A Nation of Outsiders is smart, insightful, and politically astute. Grace Hale’s analysis of the ‘romance of the outsider’ is necessary reading for anyone who has ever wondered about the meaning of our national obsession with ‘authenticity’-as well as for anyone who might be curious about what Jerry Falwell and Holden Caulfield have in common.

The birth control pill, to a great degree, made possible the (hetero)sexual revolution. Yet those who developed oral contraceptives did not intend their work to promote what the majority of Americans at the time called “promiscuity.” Doctors generally refused to prescribe the pill to women who were not married; the Supreme Court did not rule this practice unconstitutional until 1972.

William Graebner’s brilliant analysis of America’s struggles over the meaning of Patty Hearst gives us not only new perspectives on the 1970s, on Americans’ fundamental understandings of their world in a bicentennial year that offered little to celebrate, but also on the longing for heroism and the desire for belief in free will that Graebner believes structured the rise of Reagan-era conservatism. This is a masterful work of cultural history.