A divorce revolutionby Sasha Aslanian, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — In 1979, America was reeling from divorce. The divorce rate hit a historic high, and even the Academy Award for Best Picture that year went to a drama portraying a wrenching custody battle.
Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep starred as the estranged couple, "Kramer vs. Kramer," locked in a custody battle over their young son.
The kid they were fighting over doesn't have much of a voice in the movie. There was a whole generation of kids just like him.
Avery Corman wrote the novel the movie was based on. Corman remembers attending a screening for the film, and when the lights came up at the end, he noticed teenagers all around him, just slumped in their seats.
"And I knew exactly who they were," said Corman.
Corman himself was a child of divorce. Growing up in a middle-class neighborhood in the Bronx in the 1940s, Corman remembers being virtually the only kid on his block and in his school whose parents were divorced. His father left when he was 5, and he never saw him again.
"It was a kind of family secret," said Corman. "And as a result, I think I was walking around with a secret. And I think I just became more of a remote kid than I might have normally been."
By the time he wrote "Kramer vs. Kramer" in the mid-1970s, divorce was much more commonplace and the stigma was rapidly disappearing.
In 1969, California became the first state to pass "no-fault" divorce, which meant you didn't have to prove infidelity or abandonment. You could just be fed up and call it quits. In the '70s, no-fault laws spread to other states and the divorce rate ticked up.
But Corman still guarded his own secret.
Then, a school girl from the Midwest wrote to him and asked, "Were your parents divorced?" Corman wrote back, "Yes."
MY HOME'S NOT BROKEN
I was 10 when my parents separated. My parents stayed on good terms, and my mom moved two blocks away. My little brother and I piled our clothes into laundry baskets and went back and forth, spending two weeks with mom and two weeks with dad.
"I have two bedrooms!" I'd brag to other kids. I didn't want anyone feeling sorry for me. I bristled at hearing the term "broken home." I was fine. My home wasn't broken. I just had two of them.
It wasn't until much later --- in adulthood -- that I let down my guard a little bit. How had the divorce affected me? I began reading, and asking other people about their experiences.