Staying Alive, The Life and Times of an American
Baby Boomer, Part 2: The Serendipitous '70s
by Gene Baumgaertner Trafford Publishing

"At the beginning of the 1970’s, most of us still believed in a stable life, of marrying the woman or man of our dreams, and living happily ever after."

Following up his first-person look at the 1960s, An Innocent Man, Baumgaertner continues the tale of Edgar Rice Baker and his cohorts as they tackle the challenges of the 1970s. Personal histories of the Vietnam War era abound, but are often colored by nostalgia. Eddie Baker and his friends, however, are just average college students in the 1970s. Baumgaertner's detailed storytelling lets the reader in on the day-to-day lives of young adults trying to navigate career choices and relationships while the world shifts around them.

These college kids face dramas like the draft lottery and the Kent State shootings. Eddie Baker stumbles upon massive demonstrations that end only when the National Guard takes action. The crowd includes mildly curious stragglers and "professional" protesters like Harry Rabbitt, who comes equipped with "a real World War One helmet, and his own gas mask." At the same time, Baker's friend Jack is a bewildered draftee encountering Vietnam for the first time.

Poems by Baumgaertner contribute a varying rhythm to the stories, and low-resolution photographs add interest, documenting the long hair and sideburns popular in the 1970s. Interspersed news summaries offer context, and some excellent music lists, but they don’t add a lot to the overall chronicle. The stories in Staying Alive speak to the reader on a more personal level, begging the question of whether the work is truly fiction or autobiography. A forthcoming third volume, Still Crazy After All These Years: The Enigmatic '80s may offer more insight.

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