I’ve been reluctant to admit this in the past, but I am a Baby Boomer. Yes, I was born at the bitter end of the post-WWII American baby boom. Some have called my cohorts and I the world’s greatest gift to the Gross National Product, but some have tagged us as the most overindulged and narcissistic generation in the country’s history. (This from a country responsible for Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.)
I can now talk about it in my outside voice, because with the urging of author Claude Nougat, a new genre of literature is born! Before this, books with older characters in them were just called “books with older characters in them.” But thanks to the creative taxonomy of the current publishing scene that created the Young Adult and New Adult novels, we now have Baby Boomer novels. Claude writes in her blog, “Just as YA is concerned with coming of age issues, BB novels address ‘coming of old age.’” She points to examples of two books made into popular films: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach and Louis Begley’s series, About Schmidt. These two books feature characters searching for meaning after their “usefulness” in the community has passed, and they show that what has been tagged as “our golden years” (for which now surely the Boomers will craft a more positive and vigorous name) can be the start of a new and dynamic phase of life.
As our own Carol Wyer writes, fifty is fabulous and funny, but it can come with a common set of challenges: the empty nest, retirement, the death of spouses and contemporaries, an incomplete legacy, and a basketful of mental and physical health problems. And now that we’re living and loving longer, what the heck are we going to do with our third act? Read books about sparkly young vampires and wide-eyed twentysomethings navigating the workplace and flitting from bad date to bad date? Well, those are fun, and I love reading stories featuring characters of all ages.
But we’re Boomers, and being such, we want our own heroes. As Judy Blume (Google it, kids) got us girls through those first blushes of adolescence in one of the first YA novels, Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret, it could be comforting to see how a menopausal Margaret handles hot flashes and mood swings without killing her husband or adult children.
Baby Boomers make great protagonists. Gray haired, middle-aged women are natural choices for awesome spies and detectives, because to the rest of the world, we are invisible. Romance is sweeter and more precious the second, third, or fourth time around. Thrillers? Well, we can’t run and scale walls like we used to, but with age comes a certain craftiness and cunning that can still make a reader sit on the edge of his or her seat. And the vampire possibilities are endless. Even death can’t separate a couple still madly in love with each other after decades of marriage.
So maybe gravity hasn’t been kind, maybe we need those little blue pills they advertise during the Superbowl, but reading? Yeah. We can do that just fine. If you could just hand me my glasses and make the font on my Kindle a little larger, I’d appreciate that.