How Bad Were the ’50s?
Padlock IconThis article is only a portion of the full article. If you are already a premium subscriber please login. If you are not a premium subscriber, please subscribe for access to all of our content.

Published in: March-April 2023 issue.


Shame and Silence in Memoirs from the 1950s
by Margaret K. Nelson
NYU Press. 256 pages, $30.



IN HER INTRODUCTION to Keeping Family Secrets, Margaret K. Nelson defines “family secrets” as “information that family members seek to conceal from each other or from outsiders because to do otherwise would risk eliciting not only embarrassment or minor discomfort, but also profound shame and, on some occasions, material hardship or even danger.” This is deep stuff. Nelson distinguishes “family secrets” from a general tendency to sanitize one’s public image. Her focus is on a decade known for its obsession with secrets: the 1950s, the era of McCarthyism, witch hunts for Communists and homosexuals, and the triumph of the isolated nuclear family as the standard social unit that “became hegemonic among White people.”

To continue reading this article, please LOGIN or SUBSCRIBE


Jean Roberta is a widely published writer based in Regina, Canada.