Adamson’s 1969

Written by Nicole J Burton
Review by B. J. Sedlock

Henry Adamson’s British family is living in Massachusetts for his father’s job in 1969. Adamson finds getting used to American life after years of British public school isn’t easy: just being in the same classes with girls takes adjustment. He teases his sisters, joins a garage band, and misses Alistair, his best mate back home. But then his father gets transferred to Italy. It’s decided that Adamson will remain in the U.S. to finish his senior year.

Adamson is afraid he will get drafted into the Vietnam War, even though he’s not an American citizen, so he applies to college to get a deferment. In the summer before college starts, he hitches a ride to San Francisco to see Alistair, whose father has taken him there on a business trip. They explore Haight-Ashbury and the Castro district; Adamson hears Jim Jones preach at the People’s Temple and watches the moon landing on TV. He snags a ride back east from an acquaintance who has tickets to Woodstock. Once college starts, Adamson drifts into photography as a field of study. His parents send him a ticket to come to Italy for Christmas, but on the way back, he learns bad news about Alistair, and Adamson’s plane is hijacked.

Adamson doesn’t always make wise choices, but he is a likeable kid. He loves his sisters but, like a typical teenager, won’t admit it, and he is tolerant of others. There isn’t a lot of conflict in the story; it’s more of a travelogue of American life in 1969. Burton based the story in part on her brother’s and husband’s adventures in their youth and suggests using it as an adjunct text for history and social studies classes. Readers who want to immerse themselves in the late ’60s will enjoy the ride.