Victory Garden Boys by J.R. Foley


J.R. Foley’s Victory Garden Boys: Re-Loving a Boyhood explores post-World War II America through the lens of narrative memoir. In a series of narrative essays, Foley examines life in a D.C. suburb at one of the most fascinating periods of American history- the Cold War era. The reader follows Foley’s coming of age from 1947 through 1961, watching history unfold as he grows up. Foley’s essays give the reader an inside look at several aspects of his boyhood, both on a personal scale and in examinations of the political, economic and cultural developments that informed his young life. Of particular interest is the focus on Foley’s father, who served in the 86th Congress as a Representative of Maryland’s Montgomery County.

The most impressive aspect of Victory Garden Boys is the seamless way the essays work together to form an inclusive, fascinating narrative. Rather than a coming-of-age tale that gives the reader a look at Cold War America exclusively through the gaze of an adolescent boy, the reader is treated to informed, straight-forward essays as well, pieces that allow a closer look at the economic and cultural background against which Foley grew up. The writer’s voice never falters, whether he is describing the details of his father’s political campaign, or recounting his all-important discovery of rock and roll music. Victory Garden Boys is a nuanced look at how the Baby Boomers grew up, a memoir that tackles political unrest, economic prosperity, the idyllic details of suburban living, and the beauty of a boy watching his father try to change the world.