A thematic survey of recent US history, with passages from contemporary observers and participants briefly introduced and arranged under nine rubrics: the cold war; Korea and Vietnam; civil rights; immigrants and refugees; the rising tide of environmental consciousness, etc. The extracts are generally well chosen, though some are more effective than others: Elizabeth Eckford's terror-filled first day at Little Rock's Central High in 1957 and Hank Thomas's experiences as a Freedom Rider are vividly described; but excerpts from Michael Harrington's The Other America and Carson's Silent Spring, however impassioned, are too general to excite much response. Meltzer considers both the recent roots of each movement and its status in the 80's, introducing related issues when they might be appropriate: e.g., a heterosexual woman with AIDS tells her story in the chapter on feminism. The particular selections seem aimed less at balancing opinions than at capturing the feeling of being there. Uneven, but a horizon-broadener for readers already well grounded in recent history.