Menacing, nerve-racking, uncomfortably intrusive, the high school reunion has become a dreaded encounter with the past and present for many Americans. It is a moment of both heightened self-awareness and public presentation, insisting that people account for themselves, not merely to their own satisfaction, but to the satisfaction of others as well. For the author, this situation presents an ideal forum in which to explore the ongoing construction of identity in American society, and, perhaps, to ascertain just how people have managed to make sense of their lives, from then to now. As autobiographical occasions, reunions prompt us to examine our own life narratives, the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and how we have come to be that person. But at the same time, they threaten the integrity of those very stories, subjecting them to the scrutiny of others whose memories of the past and ourselves may be altogether different from our own. Reunions, then, engender a fragile community held together by the resources of a shared past, yet imperiled by the tensions of competing histories. Inevitabley, they force a kind of biographical confrontation.
This book explores that struggle, the desire to resolve the tensions between public conceptions and internal understandings, to maintain a sense of continuity between past and present lives, and to lay claim to both an integrated self and a unified life history.