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Felon for Peace: The Memoir of a Vietnam-Era Draft Resister Paperback – September 9, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0826514950 ISBN-10: 0826514952

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press (September 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826514952
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826514950
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,269,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


This is a timely book, to help us reflect on what we should have learned from Vietnam and to bring back those counselors we too quickly set aside with the draft. Young people today need to know they have choices, and that protest can take many forms.
--Providence Sunday Journal

. . . Elmer's daring exploits in the cause of peace and his trenchant observations about the background, foreground, and aftermath of the Vietnam-Era will provide entertaining and provocative reading for both those who lived through that period as well as those who came after but wish to know about a watershed period of modern American history that continues to influence national policy and personal responses to it.
--Rhode Island Bar Journal

Jerry Elmer's story is not only a fascinating memoir, but a thoughtful discussion of the most important issue of our time: can society's addiction to war be replaced by nonviolent direct action as a means for achieving a just and peaceful world?
--Howard Zinn, Historian

Jerry Elmer's story spans the breadth of nonviolent direct action during the Vietnam War and after. A new generation of activists in the peace and global justice movements now emerging will want to read this book to reflect on the tactical and strategic choices open to us today.
--Mark Rudd, last National Secretary of SDS and a co-founder of the Weather Underground

Elmer's account of the paths he took, the reasons for them, the disappointments and achievements, the dilemmas and hard decisions, reaches well beyond the fascinating story of one courageous and honorable person. It also provides penetrating insights into the goals, principles, and tactical choices of the nonviolent activist, and the lessons they can teach to a troubled and dangerous world.
--Noam Chomsky

From the Publisher

A Vietnamese-language edition of FELON FOR PEACE will be published later this year. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paul W. Graseck on September 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
Jerry Elmer's excellent memoir of a Vietnam-era draft resister provides an insider description of the American peace movement between 1965 and the present. Its historical contribution is twofold: (1) a personal discussion of some of the key players in the nonviolent movement for peace, such as Phil and Dan Berrigan, activists whom the author knew well, and (2) an anlysis of the effectiveness of nonviolent direct action.

Outrageously honest and funny, Elmer packs every page with important facts that will engage ordinary readers and academic historians. In addition, he examines the psychology of activism: the commited "activist proceeds from the unspoken (and perhaps even unconscious) assumption that his or her actions can and do make an important difference in the world."

Besides considering formative school-age experiences, Elmer looks back at the significance of his lifetime of activism, using his broad knowledge, international experience, parfticipation in many social change campaigns, great wit, litigious mind, and excellent memory to bring history alive.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Selena Maranjian on October 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
I've long known that during the '60s and '70s there were many protests against the Vietnam War. But my knowledge, I confess, didn't go much beyond that. Thanks to this entertaining and informative book, my embarrassing ignorance has been greatly reduced.

Elmer's book opened my eyes to the many forms that protests took, such as the destruction of records at draft boards across the country. I also learned about the kinds of personalities involved in protest actions, and about their motivations and philosophies. Those who called themselves pacifists varied in their views. When it came time to issue statements to the press and public, words were chosen carefully. Participants in covert actions didn't always agree on whether and how to reveal what they'd done.

The book raises many questions I'd never thought about, such as whether destroying draft records is a violent act, and many questions I haven't thought about enough, such as why so many people who feel strongly about something fail to take action. Elmer ties his experiences in with other pacifist movements, such as Gandhi's, and explores ethical issues in a very accessible way.

This is a personal history book that's well worth reading. Elmer faced many tough questions and decisions in his life and took many risks in the service of humanity. The book is inspirational and often moving. When Elmer was being interviewed as he applied for a license to practice law in Rhode Island (and legitimately worried that he might be rejected due to his "criminal" past), his interviewer said, "My brother was classified 1-A when you [destroyed draft files in Providence]. You probably saved his life. I've been waiting 20 years to thank you. You're approved."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Wissner-Gross on October 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
In a time when discussion of a national draft has surfaced once again in election "town halls," Jerry Elmer's new book, Felon for Peace, responds to a timely debate. If there are any young people out there who don't know how they'd respond if ever a draft were reintroduced, now is the time to arm oneself with knowledge.

Set in the same location where F. Scott Fitzgerald's great literary work The Great Gatsby took place many years earlier, Jerry Elmer's new non-fiction book, Felon for Peace, has successfully portrayed life in the 1960s and 70s in Great Neck, a highly-educated Long Island community, during the rise of America's War Resistance Movement.[...]. Of course, Felon for Peace goes well beyond Elmer's coming-of-age story in Great Neck, and moves on to the national scene.

Perhaps the book's greatest strength is that it poses the ethical questions of the time in a sophisticated way that challenges the readers of today. At the same time, Elmer is self-deprecating and draws the reader in, right from his elementary school days at the Kensington-Johnson School, through his days at Great Neck South High School and well beyond.

Felon for Peace could be a great resource in teaching the history of the Vietnam War era; it reveals with clarity what was happening on the larger domestic front at that time. In addition, the book could provoke interesting class discussions for student teachers, who are planning to teach high school; the book gives an excellent sense of the capabilities of motivated and highly intelligent high school students. I recommend it as an animated discussion-starter for over-50s book clubs as well. Felon for Peace is an excellent read.
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