memories of the ’80s – Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

At the beginning of a new decade, the launch of a unique book series started jumping onto bestseller lists across North America: Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel.

The Earth’s Children series focuses on the possible interaction between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnum humans.

Auel spent hours in libraries and at archaeological conferences to learn about the current research into these two groups.

Auel’s story revolves around a five year old Cro Magnum girl who survives an earthquake, but her family and camp have disappeared. She wanders aimlessly, attacked by wild animals and on the brink of death is found by a Neanderthal medicine woman, whose home and fellow community have also been displaced by the earthquake.

Adopted by the new community, the girl is named Ayla and soon is thought to be good luck as they discover a safe cave for the community to inhabit. Unlike herself, the Neanderthal’s have limited speech and use sign language to communicate. As she grows, Ayla continues to conflict with her new family and struggles against the rules that are placed upon her being a female and an outsider.

Auel’s historical book of the Ice Age was first published in 1980 by Crown Publishing and earned an endless list of positive reviews including one from The New York Times.

In consequent years, the series continued to include six books, which detailed the world of the humans in the Ice Age as well as revealed the universal story of survival, conflict, love and family.

The book was adapted for the big screen in 1986, starring Darryl Hannah, in which she rarely spoke, making it a unique film of the decade for its odd production with almost no dialogue.

For the book world, this historical fiction series stood apart, choosing to go back into the depths of time far beyond the usual bounds of history to reveal the early beginnings of mankind.

memories of the ’70s – Watership Down by Richard Adams

In the early 1970s, a fantasy novel about the life of rabbits in England became a bestseller on the literary lists: Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Inspired by his home in Hampshire, England and the writings of British naturalist Ronald Lockley in his book The Private Life of the Rabbit, Adams started telling stories to his daughters about local rabbits.

Encouraged by their devotion to the stories, Adams started to write down the tales, translating his struggles faced during WWII into how the rabbits would be struggling in their world. Adams created Lapine, a rabbit language used in the novel.

Rejected six times by publishers, Adams persisted and Watership Down was published in 1972.

The story rotates around Fiver, a runt rabbit who has extra-sensory perception, who sees into the future that the rabbit warren will be destroyed. With the help of his buddy Hazel, the rabbits flee the warren to find a new home, and face obstacles in their search for a safe new place with pals Bigwig and Silver.

Seen as an allegory, the novel focuses on the universal truths such as survival, struggle between tyranny and freedom and the rights of the individual versus the rights of a group.

Winning the Carnegie Medal in 1972 as the best children’s book of the year and the Guardian’s Children Book Prize, Adams book received rave reviews as well as became recognized as an important addition to British children’s literature.

In 1978, the book was adapted and made into an animated film – and its lasting effects has made the book one of the 100 best British children’s books of all time.

 

memories of the ’80s – She’s Gotta Have It

In 1986, the first feature length film by director Spike Lee ushered in a new wave of independent cinema as well as changed the view of African Americans on the big screen in the film She’s Gotta Have It.

Starring Tracy Camilla Johns as Nola Darling, this woman is independent and wants to have a life that is usually slotted only for men – being in charge of her life and having three boyfriends.

But the boys aren’t liking this – polite Jamie (Tommy Redmond Hicks), self-obsessed Greer (John Canada Terrell) and immature Mars (Spike Lee) all want Nola Darling for themselves.

Each man provides something in her life and she enjoys having the variety and the differences. All three are invited for Thanksgiving dinner, which each of them use as an opportunity to prove to Nola why they should be the only man in her life.

Cherishing her freedom and wanting to have the power to be an individual, Nola’s character was uniquely different from the way African Americans had been portrayed on the screen – she wasn’t poor or a whore or a drug addict – nor were her suitors.

Made for less than $200,000 and shot in 12 days in summer 1985 in Brooklyn, the film released in August 1986 and quickly became the topic of discussion by critics coast to coast.

Lee’s commentary on African Americans, women and relationships came under fire by many who felt that it was exploitative and wasn’t a real concern, but viewers loved this film.

She’s Gotta Have It pushed Spike Lee into the spotlight – with a box office of $7.1 million, his film career was happily launched.

And for those of us who liked or didn’t like the film, it encouraged a new indie film scene that definitely made the difference.