Hey you, with the bell-bottoms and the long hair. And you, with that joint between your fingers and that tie-dye. You remember the ’60s, right? You know, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Those were the days.
And surely you remember the Vietnam War. The protests, the November Moratorium, the tear gassings and the arrests. When President Nixon invaded Cambodia on April 30, 1970, and four days later, on May 4, the National Guard shot and killed four student protesters at Kent State University. Certainly you remember that.
In case you don’t, in case you think the ’60s was a time when people were free and everyone was happy, Peter Jedick’s first novel, Hippies, reminds us what those agitated times were all about.
Hippies is the semi-autobiographical story of Matt Kubik and his three roommates during their final year at Kent State University in 1969 and 1970. It is a coming-of-age tale, a love story and a personal chronicle of one of the most unforgettable periods of American social and political upheaval.
On the surface, Jedick’s novel is simple. It tells the story of a group of college seniors who experience the entire spectrum of emotional ups and downs that accompany the eventuality of graduation. It is a story about friendship, youth, love and that last chance to have some fun. There are drugs – plenty of them – and sex and beer. Like college kids everywhere, Matt and his friends throw back a cold one in moments of outright celebration, focused contemplation and utter frustration.
But Hippies is more than a book about college life. It is also a unique coming-of-age story told during a time when American society was increasingly divided over issues of government and public policy. The students in Jedick’s novel do not worry about finding jobs after graduation – they worry about losing their draft deferments and getting shipped off to fight in a war they don’t believe in. It is a story of personal and social change, of generation gaps and identity. Matt and his friends don’t consider themselves hippies. They’re just a bunch of kids having a good time, trying not to grow up.
But Matt and the others change. Outwardly, they grow their hair long and attend political rallies, such as the November Moratorium in Washington, D.C., where Matt and his buddy Paul spend an evening on GW’s gym floor. Jedick’s characters feel the political stirrings deep within, and want to take a stand for something they believe in. As they change, Matt and his friends learn the responsibilities that come with attaining adulthood. Jedick accurately portrays these changes in his depiction of everyday life at Kent State.
The events in the book lead up to that fateful day, May 4, when the Ohio National Guard shot and killed William Shroeder, Sandra Scheuer, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller. But Jedick’s approach to this development and his writing style, which has been likened to that of J.D. Salinger, are inconspicuous and engaging. The reader sees the story through the eyes of kids who are unsure of the world unfolding around them.
Jedick’s writing is smooth and fluid, and the novel is an entertaining and informative read. He incorporates the necessary elements of fiction into his first novel, creating real and likable characters. His quick, witty style keeps the reader interested and the pages turning.
The book is of particular interest to today’s college students. It provides a medium through which they can relate to the events that occurred in those tumultuous days and can even give them insight into what, for many, was their parent’s generation. Most importantly, Hippies reflects the anxieties and fears college students face as they reach adulthood, and it shows us things aren’t always so bad as they seem.