As I was finishing "When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey Of American Women From 1960 To The Present" (2009) by Gail Collins, I couldn't stop thinking about how this book would have treated Hillary Clinton's defeat in the 2016 election. What historical lesson about the journey of American women would this smart author have extracted from that debacle? If her treatment of the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment in the late 70s in this book is any indication, her tone about the results of our national sideshow last November would have been even-handed and sanguine. Though her politics and sympathies are clear, Collins is never strident and this is not a polemic.
"When Everything Changed" is insightful, well written and - probably because all the history Collins covers occurred during my lifetime - my attention never wavered. In addition, the anecdotes used throughout are revealing and often quite moving. I'm still not sure if the book as a whole works as long form non-fiction, but it's possible my quibbling is tinged with suggestibility. I've enjoyed Collins immensely as a NY Times columnist, and maybe that's interfering with my enjoyment of her in this format.
Oh yeah, I also love how the author leavens learning with humor - " 'Feminist' simply means someone who supports equal rights and opportunities for women. But there have been very few periods in American history when it didn't wind up being linked to images of crazy man-haters in unfashionable footwear." Were I Gail Collins's editor, I would have suggested adding two parenthetical questions following each of those sentences. After the first - (MICHELLE BACHMAN - ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION?); after the second - (DITTOHEADS - SOUND AT ALL FAMILIAR?) As you can see, stridency and I are close friends.