“Hippie Chick” by Ilene English

Before I begin my book review of, “Hippie Chick” by Ilene English, let me begin on a personal note: The Hippie movement started in the United States in the mid-60s – when I was a young teenager in Madras, in far away India. Yet many aspects of the movement fascinated us. During my college days my friends called me “Tripper” after the character in a popular cartoon column called, “Bringing Up Father.” I heard the name of the character was changed to “Groover” later as “Tripper” had connotations of drug usage. I, of course, had just the name and nothing beyond that !!!

I am grateful to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.

As her book says, it is about her  coming of age in the ’60s. I must thank Ilene for writing a very moving and personal book in which she is brutally frank. She writes of the choices she made, be they right or wrong, with a great deal of honesty.

The story begins in 1962 when she was 16 and lived in Irvington, New Jersey. She was the sixth, and the youngest child- of a conservative Jewish family. There were three elder girls and after a gap of six years two more girls and a boy. Ilene was closest to Carole ( to whom incidentally this book is dedicated) who pretty much looked after her, as their mother was often ill. Her mother had her first heart attack when Ilene was eight. Their father owned a store which over the years became unprofitable as he was moody, his wife was ill, and he didn’t get help in the store as the kids grew up and went away, one after the other. He ultimately sold the business and English’s Mill Road Sweet Shoppe became Mattie’s Luncheonette.

When her mother died, Ilene got a big break when her favourite sister Carole sent her an air ticket to San Francisco, California where she lived with her husband David Glickman. Not surprisingly, Ilene grabbed the chance to get away from Irvington and her domineering father. She soon settled down in California and got used to a very different kind of life. Carole and David were extremely supportive of her.

You need to read Ilene’s story for yourself. The events in her life speak of an insecure girl without strong roots who was swept away with whatever came before her. An abortion at 18 followed a short lived affair and then there were more relationships including an extremely complex one with her husband, Larry.

Ilene describes life in the San Francisco of those days in graphic detail. She also spent a number of years in Hawaii when it was relatively less crowded. The story also speaks of her sessions with Dr Fariborz Amini, a pschoanalyst; her time with the jazz playing Earl; at the Farm community led by Stephen; and her later years in Eugene, Oregon.

The book ends with her return to California, her marriage to Don and her graduation from college in her mid-40s. She is now in her 70s and still practices as a Marriage and Family Therapist.  You could say that much of her life was unplanned and she was like a leaf swept by a wind. But as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you, when you are busy making other plans.”

A thoroughly enjoyable book which captures so vividly the social scene for the youth in an era long gone by.


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