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Riot: A 1960s Love Story Paperback – September 8, 2015
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About the Author
CHARLES S. ISAACS has been a schoolteacher, college professor, social activist, community organizer, financial analyst, gambler, real estate consultant, storyteller and occasional journalist. His undergraduate studies were in Mathematics (LIU-Brooklyn), after which he attended the University of Chicago Law School, living on the city’s South Side, when and where this story is set. His later graduate work was in the Social Sciences, earning an M.A. (New School for Social Research) and a Ph.D. (The Union Institute & University). His most recent book is the award-winning "Inside Ocean Hill-Brownsville: A Teacher’s Education, 1968-69." He currently resides with his wife, Carole, in Newburgh, New York.
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From the anti-war movement to civil and women’s rights, Dr. Charles Isaacs has painstakingly researched details of many conflicts during 1967-1968. His historical fiction lays out in a real-time pace the increasing awareness and building tension among college students that culminated in the October 1967 demonstration in Washington DC. Beyond that historic protest, Dr. Isaacs continues his tale of the period’s unrest through the presidential election of 1968. Many history classes rarely go beyond WWII, and Riot does a great job filling in some “recent” history. It presents enough information to inspire a curious mind to dig into some nonfiction books about the period.
Riot is told in first person narrative. Steve enrolls in college in order to avoid the draft. While attending Chicago’s Midway College, he meets two women who will change his life. He falls in love with Cat, and has to deal with the prejudice surrounding their interracial relationship. The other, Emma, inspires him to join in the protest against the Vietnam War. While Steve and Cat do have a love-relationship, Riot is more about the politics, violence and chaos found on and around college campuses during the late 1960s.
The rich historic fact that impregnates the story is important. I appreciated the author’s attention to details and his extensive research. The pace of the story was a bit slow for me, but overall the story is poignant and worthy of reading.
In 1967 when Steve started college at Midway in Chicago, he was just a kid trying to avoid being drafted. He wasn't a particularly great student but he knew that he didn't want to go to Vietnam and college was the best way to avoid going. It isn't too long after he arrives on campus that he meets Emma, an older woman who runs a book store near campus and has been a radical organizer for years and the person who helps her at the store, Cat, a black female college student. Through Emma and Cat, Steve meets many of the anti-war and civil rights members on campus and realizes that there is so much more wrong with the war than he had originally thought. He gets very involved with the movements on campus and he falls in love with Cat.
The author does a fantastic job of making this book very readable yet full of facts about the history of the time. There is reference to many of the situations and people that were part of what was really going on and it is interspersed with Steve and Cat's story in a way that makes it all very interesting. Sometimes a book like this with so much history is slowed down by all of the facts but this book is very readable and keeps your interest. I must admit that even though I knew the outcome of the political part of the story, I wasn't bored at all with the facts because they were presented so well as part of the story of Steve and Cat.
Whether you were around during the 60s and remember what went on or you are younger and want to learn what you parents or grandparents were doing back then, I highly recommend this book. It's very interesting and well written and has two main characters who are so real that you will end up caring and thinking about them long after you close the book for the final time.