REVIEW: DANCING IN THE STREETS, BY STEVEN UNGER

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For those of us old enough to have “been there” during the 60s, the memories of that time can probably be seen through a haze—Like the bumper sticker that proclaims: “If you remember the 60s, you weren’t there!” The author of Dancing in the Streets is able to recall those times, because he “took notes.” So we have before us a fascinating display of life in those colorful days, with the author’s alter ego, Steven Strazza, whose journey takes us to various parts of the US, including New York, Alabama and Detroit, among other cities, before we also follow him to France. We rejoin him in the states, back in Michigan before he heads west to territory that is familiar to me: San Francisco, the Santa Cruz mountains, and Nevada City.

Protests, literacy projects, and work in a psychiatric hospital were some of the highlights of his journey, and as I read our narrator’s stories about the psych hospital, I was reminded of the downside of that time. Our freedoms have been hard won in our current day and age, and perhaps we have the activism of the 60s and 70s to thank for some of that.

But Steven has an all-consuming desire to experiment with different living arrangements, and after trying various such configurations in cities, he follows another desire to be part of a rural commune. He is drawn to one such place near Vacaville.

Themes of social experimentation, drug use, and the quest for a chosen familial unit drive many of the stories in this fascinating tome that spans the 60s to the late 90s, and takes a departure into the distant past and what happened to some of the MC’s ancestors during murderous times.

The story begins in Brazil in 1996, sweeps back in time to the 60s, and ends back in the place where the Summer of Love happened, thirty years later: Golden Gate Park. Where our MC has the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends and to look back at his life…the high points, the search for belonging, and for love. A very colorful and visual portrayal that kept me reading until the very end. 4.5 stars.

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