What gave you the idea to write the book?
The idea of the book stemmed from a number of different feelings that built up over the last twenty years or so. It was at about that time that I went overseas to Germany to live and study for a period of two years. It was the time of the Reunification and German society was changing. It was a special and unique time to be in Germany. Unbeknownst to me, American society was changing too. The mindset shift, from the Cold War world to an open one, was tremendous.
While I was in Germany, I had little contact with any Americans. The first Gulf War was underway and I had become an American Ambassador of sorts to all of the Germans or foreign students I’d meet. This gave me a heightened sense of my own American identity, as I would describe American social and cultural life to my new friends.
The American identity that I represented, however, was going through a major change. During the Second World War and the Cold War the American public had an almost unified understanding of what it meant to be an American. In the years following the Cold War there seemed to be a trend to replace that identity with concepts of diversity and multiculturalism.
Years later, with most of my family gone, living in the same place I grew up, with a son now growing up in that same neighborhood, I couldn’t escape how much had changed. Some of the changes weren’t limited to the geopolitical changes but also included advancements in technology as well as other social and cultural changes. I found myself telling my son stories of past American suburban life, as I did to my German friends a number of years before. It’s those stories that led to the book, Last Hand: A Suburban Memoir of Cards and the Cold War Era.
A glimpse into the past—The Greenbrier Fourth of July Bike Parade 1964.