I became fascinated with 1968 during my third year of college. 1991 was the year of my intellectual awakening. I had already undergone a political transformation. The perspectives of my parents no longer fit my life experience. Class differences between a romantic interest and I figured prominently in my switch to liberal politics.
A course on Emerson, Whitman, Dickenson and Thoreau led to me to Soul on Ice and On the Road. I identified with Kerouac's freedom to express everything. I had never been west of the Mississippi. I wondered what the Plains looked like.
Each book begat another... Kerouac led to Ginsberg, led to Baldwin, led to Thich Nhat Hahn. I devoured books on social change and radical spirituality. At night, I went to Theosophy meetings. Buddhism linked Theosophy to the 60s.
Unlike others who study that period of time, I didn't experience it myself. Nor did I romanticize the drug use. Instead, I embraced the idea of community and social change - the belief that one should act on beliefs.
Before class one day, I bought a copy of the Port Huron Statement. I began to notice the subtle ways that race and class played a part in my daily life. Tracing the Movement from the Civil Rights era to the Weather Underground gave me a feel for what it was like to take responsibility for my beliefs. I read every book I could about the 60s, and I noted the discrepancies.
It became my private obsession. I finally found my family, except I was trapped in another time period.
Over the next decade, I studied the work of historians, scholars and memorists. I collected out-of-print books on 1968 and radical politics. Whenever I needed to escape the present, I read about Dave Dellinger, the Free Speech Movement and the Chicago 7 trial. One of my strongest memories of being battered is of going to the library and taking out armfuls of books on the 1968 riots.
It didn't occur to me to write about it back then. I needed to escape to that world for my own survival. Invisible communities are better than having no community at all.