On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard gunned down unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State University. In a deadly barrage of 67 shots, 4 students were killed and 9 shot and wounded. It was the day America turned guns on its own children – a shocking event burned into our national memory. A few days prior, 10-year-old Derf Backderf saw those same Guardsmen patrolling his nearby hometown, sent in by the governor to crush a trucker strike. Using the journalism skills he employed on My Friend Dahmer and Trashed, Backderf has conducted extensive interviews and research to explore the lives of these four young people and the events of those four days in May, when the country seemed on the brink of tearing apart. Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio, which was published at the time of the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, is a moving and troubling story about the bitter price of dissent — as relevant today as it was in 1970.
Derf Backderf is the bestselling, award-winning author of True Stories (from Alternative Comics), My Friend Dahmer and Trashed. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
“Derf Backderf’s masterful Kent State does what really good, in-depth journalism should always do–breathe life into cold, hard facts–but in this case, with searing, memorable images, drawings that put us inside the skin of the protagonists. The students and the soldiers are all tragic figures in this telling, and Backderf lets us decide how to judge them. The final, violent scenes are almost Goyaesque in their brutal reality. You don’t simply put this book down and get on with your life after reading the final page–you slowly recover, shaken from the experience.” — Bill Griffith, author of Zippy the Pinhead, Invisible Ink, and Nobody’s Fool
“[Backderf’s] expertly crafted chronicle of this defining moment in U.S. history serves as a deeply moving elegy for the victims. Readers may also draw from it sobering parallels to the deep divisions of contemporary times, again dangerously rife with media noise and misinformation muddying the waters.” — Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review
“An incendiary corrective to the myths and misconceptions surrounding these events and a memorial to the lives lost or forever altered that should be required reading for all Americans.” — Library Journal – STARRED review
“Deeply researched and gut-wrenching… ” — The New Yorker
288 page black and white hardcover with dust jacket
Harry N. Abrams, 2020