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Kent State
Cover of Kent State
Kent State
From two-time National Book Award finalist Deborah Wiles, a masterpiece exploration of one of the darkest moments in our history, when American troops killed four American students protesting the...
From two-time National Book Award finalist Deborah Wiles, a masterpiece exploration of one of the darkest moments in our history, when American troops killed four American students protesting the...
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  • From two-time National Book Award finalist Deborah Wiles, a masterpiece exploration of one of the darkest moments in our history, when American troops killed four American students protesting the Vietnam War.

    May 4, 1970.

    Kent State University.

    As protestors roil the campus, National Guardsmen are called in. In the chaos of what happens next, shots are fired and four students are killed. To this day, there is still argument of what happened and why.

    Told in multiple voices from a number of vantage points — protestor, Guardsman, townie, student — Deborah Wiles's Kent State gives a moving, terrifying, galvanizing picture of what happened that weekend in Ohio . . . an event that, even 50 years later, still resonates deeply.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 16, 2020
    Via many perspectives, this powerful free verse work explores the Kent State University shootings that shocked the U.S. in May 1970. Wiles (the Sixties Trilogy) sets the stage with a narrative prelude that contextualizes the campus unrest alongside the draft and seemingly unwinnable Vietnam War, and details how the incursion into neutral Cambodia further escalated tensions. The narrative begins as a lament and immediately draws the reader into the events with voices from varied points of view, including students, townspeople, the National Guard, and the Black United Students of Kent State. Font, size, and spacing set off the distinct, often conflicting, perspectives, thoughtfully underscoring each. Wiles divides the text into the four days leading up to the shootings, and eulogizes each of the four massacred students. The black students’ voice proves particularly poignant in its depiction of long-standing institutionalized racism, and Wiles effectively portrays the combustible and enduring controversies that led to this tragedy. Ending with an extensive author’s note, this hard-hitting historical novel provides valuable perspective on unrest and violence, both timely and timeless, and an invitation that speaks to the present: “We hope you’re/ on fire/ for change.” Ages 12–up.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from February 15, 2020
    A free-verse treatment of the killing of four college students during campus protests over the Vietnam War. College campuses were often flashpoints in the struggle against the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War. In May 1970, protestors at Kent State University in Ohio were met by the Ohio National Guard, culminating in the deaths of four unarmed college students and injuries to nine others. The university and the small town surrounding it were all affected by the escalating tensions and disagreement over how to handle the issues. The governor's strict approach was welcomed by some but resisted by many on campus. Each of the deceased students is described in detail, including how they came to be in the line of fire. Readers hear from a guardsman and a town resident as well as students, their voices showing how perspectives differed depending on individuals' roles. Especially compelling are the words of black students, many of whom stayed away from the demonstration, believing, correctly, that the guardsmen had live ammunition. The structure serves to re-create the taut atmosphere of the days leading up to the tragedy, and various perspectives are represented by different fonts and typeface, furthering the sense of polarization. The extensive author's note extends the narrative, engaging readers in the author's process and the story's impact. A well-researched and deeply moving portrait of an iconic moment in U.S. history. (Verse novel. 12-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    April 1, 2020

    Gr 7-10-The Kent State shootings are recounted in poems voiced by the affected, from students to townspeople to the National Guard. Chaotic and contradictory, the narrative reflects the atmosphere on campus and in the nation. Each voice has its own font, but the identity of the speaker is not always clear. "Lament" introduces the four dead students and mentions the nine wounded. The events of the weekend are covered day by day as students' anger rises, they act out, and the National Guard is called in, culminating with the shootings on May 4th. "Elegy" ties the shooting to past and present atrocities urging readers "to be informed citizens." The phrase "Insert Your Name Here" in bold print is sprinkled in the May 4th and Elegy sections, which is distracting, but also forces readers to engage in the events. The townspeople, National Guard, and Black United Students are the only clearly defined narrators. The font for the townspeople is the smallest, making it easy to overlook. The prelude explains the impact of the Vietnam War on the U.S., and the author provides detailed information on the research and writing process at the end. VERDICT The use of multiple voices captures the tumult of the Kent State campus and varying perspectives on events, but can make the story difficult to follow at times. A good general purchase.-Tamara Saarinen, Pierce County Library, WA

    Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from January 1, 2020
    Grades 7-10 *Starred Review* History records that on May 4, 1970, four students at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, were shot and killed by members of the Ohio National Guard during a campus demonstration against the U.S. bombing of Cambodia. This is the story of that day and the three days of unrest preceding it. Wiles tells her story through unattributed voices of students and townspeople, of National Guardsmen, of Black and white individuals, of all those involved. To differentiate the voices, they are set in various typefaces and arranged on the page in columns, evoking a kind of call-and-response. The voices often meld into a deliberately confusing cacophony, reflecting the lingering uncertainty over certain details of those four days; rumors remain, and it is often forgotten, for example, that nine other students were injured on May 4. Wiles lists their names as well as those of the four who were killed: Sandy Scheuer, Bill Schroeder, Jeff Miller, and Allison Krause. She writes movingly about them and their short lives and brings a visceral energy to the events of the tragedy. In her account, Wiles implicitly challenges her readers to find parallels between then and now and, in so doing, does a service to history. An important book not to be missed.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

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