Kevin Boyle
The shattering by kevin boyle hc
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The Shattering


From the National Book Award winner, a masterful history of the decade whose conflicts shattered America’s postwar order and divide us still.

[A] luminous guide to a tumultuous decade.”

— James A. Morone, New York Times Book Review

On July 4, 1961, the rising middle-class families of a Chicago neighborhood gathered before their flag-bedecked houses, a confident vision of the American Dream. That vision was shattered over the following decade, its inequities at home and arrogance abroad challenged by powerful civil rights and antiwar movements. Assassinations, social violence, and the blowback of a silent majority” shredded the American fabric.

Covering the late 1950s through the early 1970s, The Shattering focuses on the period’s fierce conflicts over race, sex, and war. The civil rights movement develops from the grassroots activism of Montgomery and the sit-ins, through the violence of Birmingham and the Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the frustrations of King’s Chicago campaign, a rising Black nationalism, and the Nixon-era politics of busing and the Supreme Court. The Vietnam war unfolds as Cold War policy, high-stakes politics buffeted by powerful popular movements, and searing in-country experience. Americans’ challenges to government regulation of sexuality yield landmark decisions on privacy rights, gay rights, contraception, and abortion.

Kevin Boyle captures the inspiring and brutal events of this passionate time with a remarkable empathy that restores the humanity of those making this history. Often they are everyday people like Elizabeth Eckford, enduring a hostile crowd outside her newly integrated high school in Little Rock, or Estelle Griswold, welcoming her arrest for dispensing birth control information in a Connecticut town. Political leaders also emerge in revealing detail: we track Richard Nixon’s inheritances from Eisenhower and his debt to George Wallace, who forged a message of racism mixed with blue-collar grievance that Nixon imported into Republicanism.

The Shattering illuminates currents that still run through our politics. It is a history for our times.

[A] rich, layered account of the 1960s.” 

Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

Boyle has a gift for…artful and empathetic storytelling. The events and issues outlined in The Shattering define not just the 1960s but our own times as well.”

Lily Geismer, Washington Post
Story justice

The front line of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963. Jackie Robinson is at the center of the line. To his left is his wife, Rachel Robinson. To her left is Rosa Parks. (Steve Schapiro/​Getty Images) 

A brilliantly achieved history of some unusually fraught years of American history.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Shattering” is like a portrait of the decade in which everyone turned their head … and noticed another world, there all along, beneath the famous one.” 

Christopher Borreli, Chicago Tribune

Boyle’s gripping, indelible account of the 60s deserves a spot next to J. Anthony Lukas’ classic Common Ground, which unravels history through those who lived it.”

National Book Review
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An American soldier moves across a bombed-out hillside in Thua Thien Hue Province, South Vietnam, 1971. (Bettmann/​Getty Images)

Boyle’s elegantly written account…is a skillful encapsulation of an era that brought to boil conflicts still tormenting American society today.”

Publishers Weekly

Boyle…brings a roving curiosity and a rare gift for narrative sweep [that]consistently challenge past notions of what exactly the 60s meant.” 

Jonathan Darman, Air Mail
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Estelle Griswold (left) and her colleague in Connecticut’s Parenthood League celebrates Griswold’s successful Supreme Court test of the state’s birth control law, June 7, 1965. (Bettmann/​Getty Images)

Praise for The Shattering

The Shattering is history at its absolute best. Boyle is such a gifted storyteller — I found myself riveted by this captivating portrait of a time when America exhibited its best and its worst natures side by side.

We live in eventful times, but they can’t compare to the 1960s. Kevin Boyle has masterfully given sense and shape to a chaotic decade. The Shattering is panoramic, astute, and compellingly readable.”

— Nicholas Lemann, author of Transaction Man

The Shattering is a magnificent book, immensely rewarding on many levels. With elegant fluency and quiet command, Kevin Boyle probes deeply into the intertwined struggles of the long Sixties’ and their meaning for us today.”

— Fredrik Logevall, author of JFK

Gripping…Kevin Boyle gives us a fresh perspective on the central debates of the decade that will help readers understand the era in an entirely new light.”

— Elizabeth Hinton, author of America on Fire

The Shattering is an epic history of the 1960s for a new generation. This passionately narrated, luminously written account of the decade that forever transformed America brilliantly recounts how that era’s struggle for social justice and radical democracy continues to shape our own.”

— Peniel E. Joseph, author of The Sword and the Shield

In his beautifully rendered The Shattering, Kevin Boyle returns us to those challenging years, peopling them with real characters both famous and ordinary.”

— Lizabeth Cohen, author of Saving America’s Cities