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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
I got to experience the events in this book firsthand. Our house in Hyde Park overlooked Hyde Park High School, and the three kids in my family still at home in September, 1974, and affected by busing, were in the 9th, 8th, and 5th grades. I will never forget how forced busing turned our world and that of our neighbors upside-down. So many incidents went unreported...
Published on November 20, 1998

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars pat s
Well researched and presented a good look at the complexities of social reform. A human story with a necessarily vague human ending, when does it end?
Published 2 months ago by pat scahill


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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, November 20, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (Paperback)
I got to experience the events in this book firsthand. Our house in Hyde Park overlooked Hyde Park High School, and the three kids in my family still at home in September, 1974, and affected by busing, were in the 9th, 8th, and 5th grades. I will never forget how forced busing turned our world and that of our neighbors upside-down. So many incidents went unreported so as not to inflame tensions even more. I put off reading Mr. Lukas' book for years, but now that I have, I 'm in awe of his incredible effort. I feel that I personally owe him a great debt, because he gave these events a place in history where they deserve to be. For many years, busing was a taboo topic in conversation and in the newspapers. Strangely enough, after 24 years, the court's decisions are now being overturned, using the same arguments in reverse... To me, busing will always rankle as a reminder of the hypocrisy of the suburbs, where I now live in order to avoid- you guessed it- the now less-than-adequate Boston schools.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best nonfiction book I have ever read, March 14, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (Paperback)
This book is a magnificant work -- the best work of nonfiction I have ever read. It captures the essence of the problems facing urban America in a compelling, meticulous story. It is about America, the world, race and racism, class and elitism, sociology, education, psychology -- it has it all. And it is breathtakingly entertaining.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE TRUTH, WITHOUT BLAME, March 11, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (Paperback)
As one who actually lived through these terrible, terrible times in Boston, this book is one of the only pieces of journalism that doesn't portray white, working class Boston as the bad, ugly racists, but rather shows that the children of Boston were used as pawns by well-heeled suburbanites and a lofty judge who walked away and then pointed the finger. It was always, always about class and not race and the whole busing debacle nearly ruined a great American city. Stopping the desegregation at the City limits was the biggest mistake ever made and the people of Boston simply refused to abide by it. Sure, people were accused of being racist and certainly some ugly things happened, but to act as though discrimination ended at the borders of Boston was ridiculous, which is now acknowledged. Hopefully the suburbs will not be let off the hook again.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best political books I ever read - 6 stars!!!!, May 6, 2005
By 
Robert J. Crawford (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (Paperback)
This book is an absolutely magnificent tableau of American politics in all its complexity and ambiguity. Lukas investigated the lives of three families in a fundamental controversy on the future of America: forced school busing.

The first family are brahmans, from Harvard Law and straight into the Mayor's office in a moment of idealism that would forever change his career. He is a mechanic of political change, who is trying to lead a good and honorable life. Then there is a working class Irish family, from the other side of the tracks. The widowed mother becomes a great adversary of the process underway, in no way racist but opposed for very practical and personal reasons to forced busing. Finally, there is a black family, struggling to get by amidst dashed hopes and pathological mental illness, the supposed benificiariers of a great social experiment. The portrayals of these lives - all real and thoroughly investigated by an absolutely first-rate investigative journalist - are beyond novellistic realism. The personalities are so vivid and well drawn that it is simply astonishing.

Then there is the wider political/historical milieu, Boston in the early 1970s. Lukas stops at nothing to create a composite picture: there is the mayor Kevin White (whom I was astonished to learn was considered by Jimmy Carter as a running mate in 1976), Ted Kennedy, and scores of others including the archdiscese and various minor politician-demagogues hoping to make a career out of the crisis. The portrait is as beautiful and detailed as the Sistine Chapel, exposing the best, the worst, and the unexpected in American politics of the period. Lukacs' talent to do all of this is simply extraordinary. Late in the writing, I learned, he had to throw out one of the three families and begin the entire process over again in the name of thoroughness. No wonder he won a pulitzer.

This book also spoke to me personally. I was in Boston for part of the time, in the very neighborhood where the brahmans lived as a personal social experiment, and I witnessed many of the events as they unfolded. Lukacs' evocation of it all struck me as entirely accurate, pitch perfect to where people were coming from and what they hoped and feared. As such, this book is a crucible of the American race conundrum, a turning point of the greatest political import, perhaps equal to the Vietnam war protests.

And the writing! It is elegant and clear beyond imagination, approaching what I would call genius, the product of an unusually driven mind. The characters are so vivid that I will refelct on them until the day I die. This is destined to become a classic, like Tacitus or Thucydides - the quality is truly that high. I have read HUNDREDS of political-historical books, and this one ranks as near the top as a handful.

Recommended as a true must-read. Get it, make the effort, for an excpetional reading experience.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A monumental effort... with intelligence & heart, April 30, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (Paperback)
I really appreciate the honesty in this book. Lukas did not try to create villans or martyrs, he simply told the truth. This book is a must-read for anyone who lives in a racially diverse American city. If you like this book, you'll also like UNEASY ALLIANCES by Paul Frymer. Wei Chen
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Modern History of Boston Ever, November 2, 2006
This review is from: Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (Paperback)
In you are interested in modern Boston history, and why Boston is the way it is, there is no better book. The subject of this book is busing, but that is only one (important) element of the book. Excellent, well-researched overview of Boston's different ethnic clans, geography, religious groups (the most fascinating history of the Boston Roman Catholic Church I have ever read), and Boston culture. Extremely well-written.

I've lived in Massachusetts/Boston my entire life. I regret not reading this book earlier.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Amazing Book that I have ever read, December 1, 2010
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This review is from: Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (Paperback)
This book is about busing in the 1970's in Boston. I grew up there and lived through the entire nightmare. This man has put together more information into one book, than you can possibly imagine. I knew all the players of the time, and I had no idea of all of the political shenanagians that was going on at that time. It is so in depth, I feel as though I know these people, walked the streets with these people, and suffered through what they did. Incredible, writing, incredible story, deserved the Pulitzer.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brialliant Work, December 28, 1999
This review is from: Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (Paperback)
Lukas manages to present three views of the tumultuous events in Boston in the 1960s without placing value judgements upon the viewpoints himself. He simply tells the story as it happened by presenting each family's view -- a poor black family's, a poor white family's, and an upper class white family's -- of the situation as it appeared to them at the time. His book presents a window into the hearts and minds of the people that made the story; it is a rare treat.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncommon Reportage, November 28, 2011
This review is from: Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (Paperback)
Common Ground is one of the best books I can remember reading in the past few years. It is astoundingly thorough in its research and masterful in its use of perspectives in attempting to illuminate the urban crisis that consumed a great American city (Boston) in the 70s.

While Common Ground had been often described as "that book about busing in Boston," that issue is really just an entry point for Lukas's exploration of the the psychologies of people from diverse social classes and the pathologies of the governmental organizations trying to mediate their differences and preserve order. Often, the book illustrates, the latter comes at the expense of the former.

I came away from this book profoundly troubled. The experiences of the characters--their hopes and failures--served as a compelling and instructive metaphor for the larger reality of the disintegration of American cities.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOTHING common about Common Ground, June 10, 2014
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Having grown up in Roxbury and Dorchester I found this book eye opening. I had the same hopes and fears as many in this book.
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Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families
Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families by J. Anthony Lukas (Paperback - August 12, 1986)
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