On its surface, Common Ground is the story of the 1970s busing crisis in Boston. In reality, the book is much, much more than that. Author J. Anthony Lukas spins the story through the eyes of three Boston families: the Irish McGoffs, the Yankee Divers, and the African-American Twymons. He traces the history of each family to show how they came to be in Boston, touching upon the Irish fleeing famine, the slaves seeking a better life in the north, the Yankees living in a world apart. When Judge Garrity ordered the forced desegregation of Boston’s public schools in the 1970s, the lives of each of the families were strongly affected. The heart and soul of Boston was exposed when race wars erupted, culminating in a Boston Herald photographer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a white youth from Southie beating a black man with a flagstaff bearing the American flag. Common Ground also brings to light the hypocrisy of the elite WASP families living in the Boston suburbs who impose their unrealistic ideals on the urban poor; the great feat of busing in Boston was to bring black students from poor, underfunded black schools into poor, underfunded white schools. Neither the Twymons nor the McGoffs are in favor of busing.

Lukas spent even years researching this book, and he won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for his efforts. At 651 pages, the book is massive – not something you’d read in a weekend. However, if you want to know the history of Boston – indeed, if you want to know Boston – this is the book to read.

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