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May 16, 2021

Jacobo's Rainbow by David Hirshberg ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

Winner of the Independent Press Award 2021 Literary Fiction, Jacobo's Rainbow is a historical literary novel set primarily in the nineteen sixties during the convulsive period of the student protest movements and the Vietnam War.

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Jacobo's Rainbow
May 2021; Fig Tree Books; 978-1941493281
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); historical fiction
It always surprises me to see a book about the 1960s listed as historical fiction.  In some ways, it doesn't seem that long ago -- those were the years that I grew up - from 12 to 21!  Jacobo's Rainbow looks at those years - at the free-speech movement, the Vietnam protests, and the anger that the college students had against the government.  It also shows the racism and sexism that existed even among the same college students who wanted free speech.  Unfortunately, we still see a lot of this in America today.

Jacobo grew up in a small town and went to college at the University of Taos in 1963.  The students on campus believed that he was Indian because of his name and where he grew up and he hid his real background.  He was quickly caught up in the free speech movement on campus led by a charismatic man who seemed to have all the answers.  Instead of being a real part of the action when the group takes over an administration building, he is handed a notebook and told to keep track of everything that is said during the protest because he's still considered an outsider. When things go terribly wrong with the building takeover, Jacobo is blamed and he sneaks out of town and heads home.  When he's arrested he's given two choices - either jail or joining the military and going to Vietnam.  He continues to chronicle his life, and fifteen years after the original free speech protest, he looks back on his life and all of the changes that he's been through.

Jacobo's Rainbow is about the protests of the 60s but, to me, more importantly, it's about prejudice - against Jewish people, against women, and against everyone who thinks differently than the leadership of the protest.  The synopsis wraps it up with these words  "It can be read on three levels: (1) The story of what it was like to have lived through and been a participant in the Free Speech Movement and the Vietnam War ('The Sixties'); (2) A metaphor for what is going on college campuses today, in terms of the shutting down of speech and the rise of anti-Semitism; and (3) What life is like for the 'outsider.'" 

This was a well-written introspective book about what was going on in the 60s and how we see some of the same attitudes today.  It gives the reader a lot to think about.  I look forward to reading future books from this author. 
Buy Jacobo's Rainbow at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. Since her travel plans had to be canceled for this year, she is starting to make plans for travel in 2021. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter


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