Kent State : Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf

My high school librarian always told me that past history has to be witnessed by those who didn’t live it in order to live on in our memories and to prevent it from happening again. I have taken that to heart in the years since by reading and watching nonfiction about events that happened before I was born.

My latest nonfiction read was Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf. This is a graphic nonfiction account of the Kent State shootings that happened on May 4, 1970. On that date, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State University in Ohio. Four students were killed and nine were wounded in a deadly fusillade of 67 bullets.

This story is told from the perspective of the four students who were killed, as well as other students on campus and the writer himself. Ten days prior to the shooting, 10-year-old Derf Backderf was riding in the car with his mother when he saw the same National Guardsman patrolling his nearby hometown, having been brought in by the governor to hopefully squash a trucker strike. Backderf spent years doing interviews and conducting research into the lives of the people affected by the Kent State shootings. What he has created brought me to tears. Reading about their lives before the shooting, how the area was affected afterwards, and the coverup that occured had my emotions running ragged. I found this story to be troubling and concerning, and also incredibly relevant to today as dissent and protesting happens across the world.

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