The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson, Random House, 2007, 404 pp
I read Bryson's memoir of growing up in the 1950s as research for my own memoir. As he did in A Walk in the Woods, he had me laughing out loud, long and hard. But the biggest revelation for me was the huge disparity between life as a boy child and life as a girl child during that decade.
At least from his point of view, boys had much more freedom to roam, they were encouraged to be physical (sports, getting into fights, etc) and daring (trying cigarettes and booze, ditching school.) Emulating superheroes played a huge role in establishing a boy's identity.
His mother worked outside the home; mine stayed at home being a housewife. His dad was a sports writer and traveled often; my dad was a secret writer but was home every night. Making parallels is always tricky.
I was reminded of the polio scare, how bad it was at the dentist, the things we didn't worry about such as fallout from nuclear testing, food additives and those clouds of DDT spray.
When I returned to my own writing, I had been fairly annihilated. Compared to Bryson's hyperbolic humor, my own recounting sounded serious, perhaps dull. It took a while but as I found my own voice again I also had to admit that for this female, growing up in the 1950s was not that funny.
(The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)