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Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

It is 1969 and Jody A. Forrester is in her late teens, transitioning from sixties love child to pacifist anti-Vietnam War activist to an ardent revolutionary. Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary, revolves around her three years in the Revolutionary Union, a Communist organization advocating armed overthrow of the ruling class. In readiness for the uprising, she sleeps with two rifles underneath her bed. One of millions protesting the war, what sets Jody apart her from her peers is her decision to join a group espousing Mao Tse Tung’s ideology of class war. But why? How does she come to embrace violence as the only solution to the inequities inherent in a capitalist empire? To answer that question, Jody goes into her past, and in the process comes to realize that what she always thought of as political is also deeply personal. More than a coming-of-age story, this memoir tells the more universal truths about seeking a sense of belonging not found in her family with themes of shame, pride, secrecy, self-valuation, and self-acceptance explored in context of the culture and politics of that volatile period in American history.
Reviews
How does one become a happily married, middle-class chiropractor after spending years in a communist group? In this galvanizing debut memoir, short story author Forrester takes readers behind the scenes of her college years in a communist group. She begins in 1960s lower-middle-class Los Angeles, skillfully illustrating how idealistic young college students can easily get sucked into extremist groups. Anti-Vietnam war protests (“Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”) and drug experimentation lead her to join the radical communist group the Revolutionary Union. In 1969, Forrester quickly evolves from a middle-class teenager to sleeping with a “30-ought-6 and a M1 rifle” under her bed—and, after leaving the group in 1972, she feels she’s lost part of her family.

A born storyteller whose prose immediately draws readers in, Forrester vividly portrays the fear of crouching in the dark with guns in case of a police raid, the horrors of being sexually assaulted by a babysitter’s husband, and the heartbreak of romantic betrayal and a subsequent abortion (which, pre-Roe v. Wade, required psychiatrist approval). She also skillfully outlines what can happen when starry-eyed teenage idealism meets bad actors—and the sometimes-lifelong results (in Forrester’s case, difficulty finding employment and an FBI investigation). Her skillfully crafted prose is studded with evocative, tender details (her hospitalized grandmother “looked like a wizened overripe potato. I cried to see her laboring for each breath”; she follows a women’s lib group’s instructions for masturbation “as though piecing together a balsa airplane”).

At the outset of this gripping account, Forrester muses, “I decided it was time to reclaim those lost years, to learn more about how I got there, and how I got from there to here.” She adeptly records how, despite her early choices closing some doors, they contributed to her becoming a strong, determined woman and led her to discover a happily-ever-after with her husband and two daughters. Readers will devour this deeply honest and heartfelt memoir.

Takeaway: This insightful and incisive memoir brings the ’60s to life and powerfully illustrates what it’s like to be radicalized—and deradicalized.

Great for fans of: Patricia Campbell Heart and Alvin Moscow’s Every Secret Thing, Bill Ayers’s Fugitive Days, Hari Kunzru’s My Revolutions.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A+
Marketing copy: A+

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