cover image Wild Child: Girlhoods in the Counterculture

Wild Child: Girlhoods in the Counterculture

Chelsea Cain. Seal Press (CA), $16 (256pp) ISBN 978-1-58005-031-9

Some may consider the hippie counterculture a bust, but the dynamic young women whose personal essays appear in this collection illustrate that it did create a subculture of strong individuals. By turns angry, sentimental and wary, the daughters of this cultural revolution meditate on the impact of their parents' choices. Zappa sets the tone in her energetic but scattered prologue celebrating individual difference. Editor Cain captures the muddy emotional landscape experienced by many girls who ""live between two worlds""; her jaded yet clever report on today's Rainbow Gatherings, where folks drink camp coffee but crave cappuccino, is a highlight. In a coarse polemic, Elizabeth Sh rages against the free love that left her without boundaries: free to do anything ""[b]ut not free to say no."" Cecily Schmidt gently tries to find her place in the counterculture as she poetically honors her quiet parents, who instilled in her a love of the land and a powerful sense of self. Veggie diets, too much pot and persistent poverty drove many hippies back into the mainstream, although some of their children didn't accompany them. As a group, these voices, which join those of other notable hippie kids, such as Jedidiah Purdy and Lisa Michaels (whose Split: A Counterculture Childhood is excerpted in this volume), are a powerful sign that a change may still be coming. This mixed bag is a worthwhile document from a great, if troubled, experiment. (Dec.)