The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

A Graphic History Book about the Kent State Massacre

Ellen Levitt

Posted on October 11, 2019 21:04

2 users

Kent State: Four Dead In Ohio, is a gripping, raw account of the May 1970 massacre of students at Kent State University.

When I attended New York Comic Con on Thursday, October 3 at the Javits Center in Manhattan, I got various freebies such as stickers, buttons, comic books, a pair of gloves, and two books. One of the books was Derf Backderf'Kent State: Four Dead In OhioThis was an advance reader copy that is slated for release in April 2020.

A few days later I began to read it, and I didn't want to stop.

For someone like me, a veteran high school United States history teacher and a fan of graphic novels and history books in graphic format, this book was simply amazing, a fascinating and mournful read. I learned a great deal about the events that lead up to and during the Kent State University shootings of multiple students, with four dead and several badly wounded. The amount of research that went into the creation of this book was exceptionally impressive. And the book's many accounts of people involved impacted me deeply.

I've taught about the Kent State shootings by ROTC, but the event ends up being just another anti-war puzzle piece in the high school US history curriculum. Some students express greater interest in it, but for many it becomes another fact to memorize in anticipation of a test. This book brought it to life in a way that could capture the attention of many a teen today.

And for those of us who are fans of graphic history books, biographies and autobiographies, this is a wonderful addition to the canon. Along with books such as Art Spiegelman's MAUS, Will Eisner's books about growing up in New York City, Laika by Nick Abadzis, and many others, Kent State brings deep emotion and a special narrative arc to a segment of history in a way that a more typical scholarly account cannot. The drawings, the layout, and even the way in which the dialogue bubbles are formatted brings a special feeling to this type of book.

I realize that not everyone regards graphic non-fiction books in a serious manner. But you only have to see the 15 pages of footnotes and sources to realize that these types of books can be examples of solid and impressive scholarship. 

In fact, I think we need more books like this, especially for history and biography/autobiography. These graphic renditions are powerful and for people who are somewhat reluctant readers, they are a big draw. Many readers can relate to them in special ways. 

Some of the drawings in Kent State are horrifying in detail, and to an extent they carry a punch that familiar photos don't have. 

As I read Kent State, I thought often of the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song "Ohio" from 1971. Yes, 2020 will be the 50th anniversary of this horrible event. How will our society remember the shootings and especially the deaths? How has the college experience been altered since then? And our opinions of the Vietnam War? Let us ponder. 

 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on October 11, 2019 21:04

Comments

comments powered by Disqus

After a white supremacist gunned down nine black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, last June,...

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest