Michener, James. Kent State: What Happened and Why. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications, 1971.
Reviewed by J. d'Artagnan Love
Kent State does exactly what the title suggests; it explains what happened during the Kent State riots and why. I went into reading this book with preconceived ideas about what the 1960s and 1970s were like. Most of these ideas were born from media representations of this time period. Reading this book opened my eyes in exactly the way I was hoping. I knew that my understanding of the decade was based on exaggerated and romanticized ideas of hippies, political radicals, and free love. This text helped me ground my perception of the era within a more realistic framework.
Michener's text is nonfiction but reads like a novel. After completing in-depth interviews with many people involved in the Kent state riots, he crafted a piece that is engaging and eye opening. I was not aware of the seriousness of the situation or the complicated nature of the activism that took place in this point of American history. We came very close to losing our established educational system to groups of people who relied often on violence as a means of change. I used to side with these groups in a romantic, idealistic fashion, but after reading Kent State, the issue has been complicated for me and I no longer do so.
No matter where you stand on the issues surrounding these events, Michener has you covered. He does a very good job documenting all sides of the issue and important events in American culture that shaped this era and lead to the riots. This book might not be for everyone as it does rely on a lot of historical discussion and thinking, but if you like learning about the 1960s and 1970s, I highly recommend it!
3.5 darts out of 5
Bookshelf Project Status: Return to the friend from whom I borrowed it.