I’m going to try and be a bit more broad-sweeping with this, since the Cold War is a bit all encompassing when it comes to the second half of the twentieth century. It takes it’s name from the fact that very little direct conflict took place, but rather, a mindset – a fear of Communism (though it was, in a sense, fought through a series of proxy wars). If you’ve every heard of McCarthyism or the Red Scare, that’s the whole deal. Red referring to Soviet Russia (the USSR). And McCarthyism referring to a witch hunt of sorts that consumed the 1950s. Many were afraid that their former allies from WWII were now spying on them and making an attempt to overtake the great American way with communist ideals.
This manifested in a variety of ways – and it was a touchy time, in a sense. One was the Space Race. While Americans were excited to see a man in space – even better, on the moon – Russia was also attempting the same thing. Outer Space was the new frontier, and the goal was to get there before the Soviets did, all the while fearing that they might be using spies to steal our ideas.
Germany was once again in the middle. With the end of WWII, control of the country was split, half to be governed by the allies, the other to be governed by Russia, who intended to punish Germany for their invasion during the war. A literal wall split the east from the west through Berlin. The media and Hollywood were also an interesting scene, quite literally, as a blacklist was formed. Anyone with supposed Soviet sympathies was marked, for fear that they might use their platform to sway others. In defense of the American Way, television and movies reflecting the fear of further atomic warfare and communist spies began pouring out. You might remember Superman: Quest for World Peace and other such films. Even shows such as I Dream of Jeannie has some Space Race flair to it.
But while the fear of communism coming to American probably wasn’t an imminent threat, it was in other places, where governments were in turmoil. If you’ve ever wondered where America got it’s savior complex, that reputation developed during the Cold War as American began jumping into foreign wars to help rid the world of communism and dictators. But unlike the public reaction to WWII, journalism was changing. People were no longer settling for propaganda, but called for truth. And as the images began rolling in, it was nothing like the smiling soldiers from 1940s newsreels. Outrage and protest racked the country. Rock’N’Roll artists used their platform to send a message. Students protested and avoided the draft when possible.
While you may picture the “fifties house wife” and classic suburban living, it was also a period of breaking barriers, bucking the status quo, and asking “why?” as other movements such as Civil Rights, Feminism, and Free Love also entered the scene. The traditional home had been the model for so long, that many began to wonder if the old ways needed some shaking up. While there were certainly some highlights – such as the Kennedy Camelot and the Reagan days, whether parents and elders were ready for it, the world was changing – science, technology, music and lifestyles were all racing ahead.
One of my favorite books from the era is actually the fourth installment in the Daughters of Fortune Series by Judith Pella. Covering the end of the 1940s, it really sets the stage for the Cold War and the conflict with Russia, explaining why American/Soviet relations went cold. Now, I will caution you, it’s not a stand alone, and you really ought to enjoy getting to know the Hayes sisters through the first three books anyways, but if you’ve been on this journey, reading American History through Christian Fiction with us, then it’s perfect. Read the first three as your stop in WWII and then pick up Homeward My Heart as your stop in the Cold War.
Below are several other novels from the time period, spanning from Rock’N’Roll to Civil Rights. I hope you’ve enjoyed our tour of American History through Christian Fiction. They say history is born twenty years after it happens, so I’m thinking the tearing down of the Berlin Wall is a good place to call it, thought I happen to know there are some great titles that feature September 11th, Iraq and the War on Terror, if you’d like to continue. I’ve so enjoyed all of your feedback during this journey. There will be one last post that will provide a bit of a summary of the titles here and some links to a Pinterest board with further resources.
1946 Homeward My Heart – Judith Pella
Daughters of Fortune book 4 The “war to end all wars” is over, but the Cold War is just beginning. Cameron works as a foreign correspondent for her father’s newspaper while she continues to try to obtain a Soviet visa in order to join her husband, Alex, who is not allowed to leave Russia. Blair is in Washington D.C., where husband, Gary, works for the State Department. Jackie is in California, struggling to cope with widowhood and single motherhood. All three are experiencing private heartaches that severely test their faith when Cameron’s visa is suddenly approved. Blair and Jackie decide to join her in a clandestine search for their stepbrother. Danger and intrigue, courage and faith explode in a powerful conclusion.
*Part of a series, not a stand alone. Books should be read in order.
1950 Bridge to Haven – Francine Rivers
To those who matter in 1950s Hollywood, Lena Scott is the hottest rising star to hit the silver screen since Marilyn Monroe. Few know her real name is Abra. Even fewer know the price she’s paid to finally feel like she’s somebody.
To Pastor Ezekiel Freeman, Abra will always be the little girl who stole his heart the night he found her, a wailing newborn abandoned under a bridge on the outskirts of Haven. Zeke and his son, Joshua—Abra’s closest friend—watch her grow into an exotic beauty. But Zeke knows the circumstances surrounding her birth have etched scars deep in her heart, scars that leave her vulnerable to a fast-talking charmer who lures her to Tinseltown. Hollywood feels like a million miles from Haven, and naive Abra quickly learns what’s expected of an ambitious girl with stars in her eyes. But fame comes at a devastating price. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now all she wants is a way back home.
In this riveting and highly anticipated tale of temptation, grace, and unconditional love, New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers delivers big-canvas storytelling at its very best.
1852 Stardust – Carla Stewart
Shortly after burying her unfaithful husband, Georgia Peyton unexpectedly inherits the derelict Stardust motel from a distant relative. Despite doubts from the community and the aunt who raised her, she is determined to breathe new life into it. But the guests who arrive aren’t what Georgia expects: Her gin-loving mother-in-law; her dead husband’s mistress; an attractive but down-on-his-luck drifter who’s tired of the endless road; and an aging Vaudeville entertainer with a disturbing link to Georgia’s past.
Judd Markley is a hardworking coal miner who rarely thinks much past tomorrow until he loses his brother–and nearly his own life–in a mine cave-in. Vowing never to enter the darkness of a mine again, he leaves all he knows in West Virginia to escape to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s 1954, the seaside community is thriving, and Judd soon hires on with a timber company.
Larkin Heyward’s life in Myrtle Beach is uncomplicated, mostly doing volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more–maybe moving to the hollers of Kentucky to help the poor children of Appalachia. But she’s never even met someone who’s lived there–until she encounters Judd, the newest employee at her father’s timber company.
Drawn together in the wake of a devastating hurricane, Judd and Larkin each seek answers to what tomorrow will bring. As opposition rises against following their divergent dreams, they realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.
In a time of grief and heartache, an unlikely friendship provides strength and solace.
After leaving her son’s grave behind in Montgomery, Alabama, Delilah Evans has little faith that moving to her husband’s hometown in Pennsylvania will bring a fresh start. Enveloped by grief and doubt, the last thing Delilah imagines is becoming friends with her reclusive Amish neighbor, Emma Mullet—yet the secrets that keep Emma isolated from her own community bond her to Delilah in delicate and unexpected ways.
Delilah’s eldest daughter, Sparrow, bears the brunt of her mother’s pain, never allowed for a moment to forget she is responsible for her brother’s death. When tensions at home become unbearable for her, she seeks peace at Emma’s house and becomes the daughter Emma has always wanted. Sparrow, however, is hiding secrets of her own—secrets that could devastate them all.
With the white, black, and Amish communities of Sinking Creek at their most divided, there seems to be little hope for reconciliation. But long-buried hurts have their way of surfacing, and Delilah and Emma find themselves facing their own self-deceptions. Together they must learn how to face the future through the healing power of forgiveness.
Eminently relevant to the beauty and struggle in America today, The Solace of Water offers a glimpse into the turbulent 1950s and reminds us that friendship rises above religion, race, and custom—and has the power to transform a broken heart.
The third in a saga of four generations of women set against the sprawling tapestry of the 20th century focuses on a young journalist in the 1960s, who immerses herself in the civil rights movement and antiwar protests and learns that with God’s help she can grow into the woman He wants.
Jocie Brooke has never wanted for love, despite the fact that she hardly remembers her mother. Jocie’s father, preacher David Brooke, has done his best to be both father and mother to his daughter. Even Jocie’s spinster Great-aunt Love, who’s slowly going senile, cares for Jocie in her own stern way. But in their small town of Hollyhill, Kentucky, painful secrets lie just beneath the surface, and inquisitive spirits discover surprising truths. There’s a reason why Aunt Love hides behind black dresses and a stoic countenance. And David takes his morning walks not just for quiet solitude, but to wrestle with the past.
Full of stories of lost loves and the trials of small-town living, this heartwarming novel explores the journey of faith and family.
*Book 1 of the Heart of Hollyhill series
1979 Never Let Go – Anne Carol
Is it possible to find your soul mate on the other side of the world?
Beth Johnson is an ambitious high school senior from suburban California with a secret passion for writing. David Somers is a charming young Englishman who wants nothing more than to play guitar in his up-and-coming rock band. Though worlds apart, when fate brings Beth and David together in London in the summer of 1979, sparks fly. After Beth receives upsetting news from home, she finds herself drawn to David’s warm character, and an all-consuming love develops. Theirs is the kind of love one never forgets, and as Beth’s stay in London nears the end, the young devoted couple must face the inevitable question: will their romance fade with the passing of summer or will they realize their promise of never letting go?
Author’s Note: this book has been revised from the original 2014 edition and is now told from a Christian worldview.
*Book 1 of the Faithfully Yours series