The Fifties: An Underground History Audiobook, by James R. Gaines Play Audiobook Sample

The Fifties: An Underground History Audiobook

The Fifties: An Underground History Audiobook, by James R. Gaines Play Audiobook Sample
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Read By: James Fouhey Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Listen Time: at 1.0x Speed 5.50 hours at 1.5x Speed 4.13 hours at 2.0x Speed Release Date: February 2022 Format: Unabridged Audiobook ISBN: 9781797137360

Quick Stats About this Audiobook

Total Audiobook Chapters:


Longest Chapter Length:

69:24 minutes

Shortest Chapter Length:

08 seconds

Average Chapter Length:

35:07 minutes

Audiobooks by this Author:


Other Audiobooks Written by James R. Gaines: > View All...

Publisher Description

A bold and original argument that upends the myth of the Fifties as a decade of conformity to celebrate the solitary, brave, and stubborn individuals who pioneered the radical gay rights, feminist, civil rights, and environmental movements, from historian James R. Gaines.

In a fascinating and beautifully written series of character portraits, The Fifties invokes the accidental radicals—people motivated not by politics but by their own most intimate conflicts—who sparked movements for change in their time and our own. Among many others, we meet the legal pathfinder Pauli Murray, who was tortured by both her mixed-race heritage and her “in between” sexuality. Through years of hard work and self-examination, she turned her demons into historic victories. Ruth Bader Ginsberg credited her for the argument that made sex discrimination illegal, but that was only one of her gifts to 21st-century feminism. We meet Harry Hay, who dreamed of a national gay-rights movement as early as the mid-1940s, a time when the US, Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany viewed gay people as subversives and mentally ill. And in perhaps the book’s unlikeliest pairing, we hear the prophetic voices of Silent Spring’s Rachel Carson and MIT’s preeminent mathematician, Norbert Wiener, who from their very different perspectives—she in the living world, he in the theoretical one—converged on the then-heretical idea that our mastery over the natural world carried the potential for disaster. Their legacy is the environmental movement.

The Fifties is a dazzling and provocative work of history that transforms our understanding of a seemingly staid decade and honors the pioneers of gay rights, feminism, civil rights, and environmentalism. The book carries the powerful message that change actually begins not in mass movements and new legislation but in the lives of de-centered, often lonely individuals, who learn to fight for change in a daily struggle with themselves.

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“An exciting and enlightening revisionist history of the 1950s showing how the brave pioneers of that supposedly sleepy decade launched the movements of the 1960s that continue to this day. Here are the inspiring tales of the unsung heroes who sowed the seeds of the gay rights, civil rights, feminist, and environmental movements. They were the true rebels, and their bravery show us how real social change occurs."

— Walter Isaacson, #1 New York Times bestselling author 


  • “A history of the courageous men and women who roiled postwar complacency.”

    — Kirkus Reviews
  • “Provides essential historical context and vividly captures the resilience of these and other 'authentic rebels' who battled the FBI, McCarthyism, the medical industry, and the Ku Klux Klan 'in a time infamous for rewarding conformity and suppressing dissent.' This revisionist history is packed with insights.”

    — Publishers Weekly

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About James R. Gaines

James R. Gaines is an American journalist, author, and international publishing consultant who is best known as a magazine editor. He was the chief editor of Time, Life, and People magazines. He is a graduate of the McBurney School in New York City and the University of Michigan. His career in magazine journalism started at the Saturday Review, followed by Newsweek and People, where he was named managing editor in 1987. He was both managing editor and publisher of Life, the first time that one person held both the chief editorial and publishing jobs at a Time-Life magazine. Gaines is the first person ever to run three Time-Life magazines. 

Gaines is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Historical Association, the Society of Eighteenth Century Historians, the Overseas Press Club, and the International Federation of the Periodical Press.

About James Fouhey

James Fouhey is an actor and narrator living in New York City. He received classical training at Boston University and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. He has recorded more than forty audiobooks across a variety of genres, including science fiction, romance, young adult fiction, and children’s fiction.