(Special Note: The Joke’s on Me, ebook edition, will be on sale for $3 off its regular price from Friday, June 28 through Saturday, June 29)
The burgeoning genre of Baby Boomer Lit fascinates me. I love the stories authors are telling about the challenges confronting this generation as we face our mortality but still want to squeeze more out of life.
Often forgotten, however, is that technically, baby boomers represent (mostly Americans) born between 1946 and 1964. That’s a span of eighteen years, for those of you good with math or who happen to have a calculator handy. So theoretically, two generations could be contained within this one moniker: two generations with very different goals and ideals.
I noticed this “gap” as a teenager. My older brother and his friends (born between 1955 and 1957) seemed to be living on a completely separate plane from me (1961) and my younger brother (1963). Even though the span between our ages is not that long, his lifestyle and his interests were not ours. He wanted to go to Woodstock. I wanted to go to a Warren Zevon concert. I partied with my friends and ended up sipping iced tea in the pool. He partied with his friends and ended up…well, there’s a lot he doesn’t remember from back then.
So when I began to write the story that would become The Joke’s on Me, it seemed natural to pit two Baby Boomer sisters, born fourteen years apart, against each other. Jude, the elder Goldberg sibling, at seventeen puts flowers in her hair and runs off to San Francisco with a rock band. She gets married barefooted on the beach. She lives in a commune and becomes an early feminist, Gloria Steinem’s home phone number one of her most prized possessions. Frankie, the menopause baby, was three when her pretty hippie sister took off for good. She grew up cynical, caustic, and always ready to make fun of her sister’s freewheeling generation, which forms the meat of her Hollywood stand-up comic act.
Ironically, the two end up back in their mother’s bed-and-breakfast in the town of Woodstock (actually about forty-three miles from the site of the original concert at Yasgur’s Farm in Bethel, New York), spent from personal disappointments. Following Jude’s fourth divorce, she’s returned to help Mom run the business. Frankie’s Hollywood life falls apart with an exclamation point when she can’t find work and her bungalow rides a mudslide into the Pacific, leaving her only the clothes on her back and a red Corvette convertible of questionable ownership.
Although Frankie and Jude were born fourteen years apart into essentially different families and never had much of a relationship, the sisters both face common baby boomer experiences. What should they do about Mom, who has a stroke and is showing signs of Alzheimer’s? How, with their histories, can they have any credibility taking a hard line on drugs and alcohol with Jude’s eighteen-year-old son? And are new relationships worth the bother, even if they’re with old flames?
Writing about these issues is a way of taking ownership of them. And hopefully, helping others along the way, whether that’s making them feel less alone with their problems, giving them a needed break from them, or just sharing a good laugh or cry, depending.
(Note: This was originally published as a guest post on Shelley Lieber’s Boomer Lit Friday blog)
Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer. She has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of three novels: The Joke’s on Me, Drawing Breath, and Don’t Tell Anyone. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she enjoys baseball, cooking, reading, and helping aspiring novelists as a contributing writer and editor for IndiesUnlimited.com. She lives in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley.