AnthemThe Sixties Trilogy - Book 3
“This way!” sang Lucy as Marvin grabbed her hand and she grabbed Norman’s other hand and the four of them snaked around bodies wearing beads and bracelets and braids; bodies in bell-bottoms, bandanas, and flowered shirts and skirts. Bodies nodding, laughing, smoking, singing, selling all manner of goods including The Great Speckled Bird.”
#teachingANTHEM1969 is here; each chapter, song by song, with background and excerpts.
- Starred Review: Kirkus
- Starred Review: Booklist
From two-time National Book Award finalist Deborah Wiles, the remarkable story of two cousins who must take a road trip across American in 1969 in order to let a teen know he’s been drafted to fight in Vietnam. Full of photos, music, and figures of the time, this is the masterful story of what it’s like to be young and American in troubled times.
Molly is a girl who’s not sure she can feel anything anymore, because life sometimes hurts way too much. Her brother Barry ran away after having a fight with their father over the war in Vietnam. Now Barry’s been drafted into that war—and Molly’s mother tells her she has to travel across the country in an old schoolbus to find Barry and bring him home.
Norman is Molly’s slightly older cousin, who drives the old schoolbus. He’s a drummer who wants to find his own music out in the world—because then he might not be the “normal Norman” that he fears he’s become. He’s not sure about this trip across the country… but his own mother makes it clear he doesn’t have a choice.
Molly and Norman get on the bus—and end up seeing a lot more of America that they’d ever imagined. From protests and parades to roaring races and rock n’ roll, the cousins make their way to Barry in San Francisco, not really knowing what they’ll find when they get there.
As she did in her other epic novels Countdown and Revolution, two-time National Book Award finalist Deborah Wiles takes the pulse of an era… and finds the multitude of heartbeats that lie beneath it.
Praise for Anthem
“Two teenagers take a road trip—searching for a fugitive family member and finding…America. It’s June 1969. Hints that her estranged but beloved big brother, Barry, has fetched up in San Francisco prompt 14-year-old Molly to enlist their fledgling-drummer cousin, Norman, 17, as driver and (with the collusion of their newly liberated moms) head west from Charleston in an old school bus. Quickly turning into anything but a straight run, the journey plunges the naïve but resilient travelers into a succession of youth-culture hot spots from Atlanta’s funky Strip to a commune in New Mexico, with stops at renowned recording studios and live-music venues. Wiles opens and closes this musically and culturally immersive road trip with extensive montages of period news photos, quotes, headlines, and lyrics, scatters smaller documentary sheaves throughout, and enriches the song titles at each chapter head with production notes. The glittering supporting cast includes famed session musician Hal Blaine, Duane Allman, Elvis, and Wavy Gravy. While leaving the era’s more-conservative, racist majority visible but at a remove from her white protagonists, the author introduces them to an interracial couple with a baby and a same-sex couple of Vietnam vets. In the end, Barry’s fate takes on minor significance next to the profound changes the trip has wrought on their hearts and minds. No sex or drugs—but plenty of live, heady rock-‘n’-roll. (author’s note, timeline, several bibliographies) (Historical fiction. 11-13).”
—Kirkus, starred review
It’s July 2, 1969, a year since 14-year-old Molly’s beloved older brother Barry following an altercation with his father over the Vietnam War left their South Carolina home without a word. Now an official draft notice has arrived for him, and Molly is sent with her 17-year-old cousin, Norman, to find Barry and bring him home. So off the two go in Norman’s old school bus on a quixotic quest to locate the missing Barry. Along the way they have many adventures, a number involving music, about which Wiles writes beautifully and knowledgeably, for Norman is a drummer with hopes of starting a band. To his delight they visit recording studios and meet the likes of Duane Allman and (gasp!) Elvis Presley. They pick up a stray dog and their share of human strays as well, including a young ex-soldier who appears to be suffering from PTSD. Their travels vividly paint a portrait of a country divided by war and knit together by music. Wiles, in this third volume of her Sixties Trilogy (Countdown, 2010; Revolution, 2014), intersperses the narrative with portfolios of contextual period photos, headlines, quotations, and more. The result is a brilliant exercise in verisimilitude. It’s all complicated, of course, but the novel is wonderfully true to the reality and spirit of the time. Michael Cart
—Booklist, starred review
Author resources for teaching ANTHEM are at Pinterest. The Playlist is there, as well as photo resources and primary sources used to create ANTHEM.
June 12, 1969
It’s been so long since I’ve felt something.
You know how it is when your heart splits open. Blood spurts everywhere. You can slap your palms to your chest, you can clutch at your breast, but your heart won’t be held. It struggles away from you, away from further damage. It won’t be held, I tell you. It begins to dissolve, to disappear. Soon you will have no heart.
Soon you will feel nothing.
This is how it is for me now. I survey the damage as I watch myself bleed to death. The mind can do that, you know.
Sometimes I try to talk myself out of it. “You’re not bleeding to death, Molly.”
But I am.
If Barry hadn’t left, maybe I wouldn’t feel this way. If the fight in our family hadn’t been so awful, if we could have talked about it together . . . but yes, it was, and no, we couldn’t have.
“He’s eighteen. He can go where he wants, as long as it’s not here,” said Dad.
“He’s your son!” sputtered Mom.
“My son will enlist in the army and do his patriotic duty, just as I did, or he will not live one more night under this roof!”
“What is patriotic duty, Dad?” asked Barry. “Take a look at the news! You think what’s happening in Vietnam is patriotic?”
I just stood there. It was like watching television. Everything was happening right there in front of me, and there wasn’t a thing I could do to change it.
My family is heartbreaking and the world is falling apart. I could make you a list.
Dad turns on Walter Cronkite every night after supper. The Battle of Hamburger Hill, the People’s Army of Vietnam, the 101st Airborne, 72 Americans killed, 630 Vietcong, and that’s the way it is, says Cronkite.
I want to leave the room, but the pictures on the television screen are so compelling. Angry people march in the streets, chanting, “Hey, Hey, LBJ! How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?” The police stand there like hulking monsters with gas masks and bayonets. Boys burn their draft cards. I can’t look away.
“Traitors!” spits Dad. “I served with honor in Korea, for this?”
Dad runs his hands over his face like he’s trying to scrub it clean of all the bad news. Then he goes to the kitchen to get his coffee before Gunsmoke comes on.
Mom dumps a laundry basket full of clean towels onto the couch. They are still warm from the dryer. I tear May off the kitchen calendar and June stares at me. It’s an anniversary month, a year since the argument. A year I haven’t seen my brother.
When I was little, Barry would safety-pin a towel at my neck and let me jump off the coffee table into the pile of clean towels like Supergirl. “You’re flying, Polka Dot!” And then he’d zoom me around the room on his shoulders.
But Barry is gone.
I’m a drummer. My name is Norman. I hate that name. My mother named me after Norman Vincent Peale and The Power of PositiveThinking [dw1] . She is a positive person. She kills me.
So I’m going to change my name. Who has a name like Norman anymore?
“Norman Rockwell!” says my mother. “Look! He paints covers for Boys’ Life!”
Who reads Boys’ Life anymore? My mother wants me to be an Eagle Scout. It’s a positive thing to do. I haven’t been to a Scout meeting in three years.
Rock and roll drummers have names like Keith and Ron and Ringo. At school I get called Normal, especially by the hoodlums in PE. I’m going to change that.
I’m spending as much time as I can this summer grooving on rock tunes and woodshedding in the garage, sharpening my chops, so I can start my own band.
Barry bought a Harley and sold me his school bus before he left, so I can carry my drum kit wherever my band plays. As soon as I get a band. As soon as I fix the bus. It’s a clunker from the Charleston school bus yard. It runs hot.
In South Carolina, high school seniors drive the school buses they don’t need special licenses and they save the state money because the state only has to pay teenagers thirty dollars a week. They also give them first dibs when the clunkers are sold and replaced.
“It’s not the one I drove,” Barry said, as he lifted the hood, “but it’ll get you to gigs with those drums and you can tinker on it as you go. Keep a toolbox under the driver’s seat.”
That was last summer and I’ve been tinkering ever since.
“Groovy!” I said to Barry. “Thanks, man!”
“Nobody says groovy anymore, Norm.”
Barry laughed and shot me that famous Barry grin. “Let me show you how to change the oil, man.”
And just like that, the bus was mine. I practiced my turns and stops until I could do them in my sleep. charleston county schools blazes across the sides in fat black lettering. I’m going to paint my band name over that when I get a band. And a band name.
Barry was going to be my guitar player he has a brand-new Fender Stratocaster just like one that Jimi Hendrix smashed on stage but now Barry is gone. He sent me postcards at first, then he switched to letters. Last month he wrote me about this guy Duane Allman over in Macon, Georgia, who Barry says is better than Hendrix. I’ll believe it when I hear it.