The GI Bill Boys
In her warm and witty new memoir, Stella Suberman charms readers with her personal perspective as she recalls the original 1940s GI Bill. As she writes of the bill and the epic events that spawned it, she manages, in her crisp way, to personalize and humanizes them in order to entertain and to educate. Although her story is in essence that of two Jewish families, it echoes the story of thousands of Americans of that period.
Her narrative begins with her Southern family and her future husband’s Northern one – she designates herself and her husband as “Depression kids” – as they struggle through the Great Depression. In her characteristically lively style, she recounts the major happenings of the era: the Bonus March of World War I veterans; the attack on Pearl Harbor; the Roosevelt/New Deal years; the rise of Hitler’s Nazi party and the Holocaust; the second World War; and the post-war period when veterans returned home to a collapsed and jobless economy. She then takes the reader to the moment when the GI Bill appeared, the glorious moment, as she writes, when returning veterans realized they had been given a future.
As her husband begins work on his Ph.D., she focuses on the GI men and their wives as college life consumed them. It is the time also of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the “Red Scare,” of the creation of an Israeli state, of the Korean War, and of other important issues, and she discusses them forthrightly. Throughout this section she writes of how the GI’s doggedly studied, engaged in critical thinking (perhaps for the first time), discovered their voices. As she suggests, it was not the 1930’s anymore, and the GI Bill boys were poised to give America an authentic and robust middle class.
Stella Suberman is the author of two popular and well-reviewed titles: The Jew Store and When It Was OurWar. In its starred review, Booklist called The Jew Store “an absolute pleasure,” and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that it was “valuable history as well as a moving story.” When It Was Our War received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and in another starred review, Kirkus Reviews described it as “Engaging . . . A remarkable story that resonates with intelligence and insight.” Mrs. Suberman lives with her husband, Jack, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.