One Day for Peace
Fiction Featuring Activists Friday, March 18, 2022
Given the current bellicose climate, for this Friday’s Fiction Featuring Activists I looked for fiction where pro-peace and anti-war activism is central to the story. In particular, I looked for novels for young people, who comprised most of the soldiers as well as the majority of that historic movement.
I imagined that in the last fifty years novelists would have had time to produce some worthwhile fiction for young people about the massive US uprising against the Vietnam War, along the lines of the many good stories about the US Civil Rights movement, with which it overlapped.
Alas, not so, not in the case of youth and young adult fiction in the US. The massive decade-long US peace movement, which actually achieved its object, gets exceedingly poor treatment in nearly all young people’s fiction about the Vietnam War. It appears that not even success can get stories featuring antiwar activists into the mainstream narrative.
Prof. Deborah Wilson Overstreet conducted an exhaustive study of every young adult book published between 1967 and 2018 about the Vietnam War. Only 32 out of the total 53 young adult novels about Vietnam mention the movement at all, and only one novel actually focuses on it in a positive portrayal: One Day for Peace, by Alexander L. Crosby.
As a sixteen-year-old who marched shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of thousands of other young people, including my younger siblings, I find this shocking. Especially since, according to Prof. Overstreet, the cursory mentions of the peace movement in most of these novels are extremely negative, recycling the stereotype of long-haired students calling soldiers “babykillers” and spitting at them, which, if it happened at all, was a vanishingly small aspect of this tremendous movement, and may well have been entirely fabricated after the fact.
One Day for Peace is the story of a young person named Jane who organizes a local committee of six friends against the Vietnam War. They face great resistance from most classmates and adults in their school and the town, including public denouncements, warnings, and physical threats. The young people persist, nonetheless, and draw national media coverage for their peacemaking efforts.
We need to find, promote, and write, more books like this, to give a true picture of the critically important work that so many regular people, including youth, have been doing over the years for peace, justice and planetary survival. And to inspire more of them to join in.
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Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults: Volume 10 N. 1, March 2019, p. 18
Stories of veterans being abused by antiwar activists only surfaced years after the abuses were alleged to have happened. During the period in which soldiers returned from Vietnam, such stories were virtually nonexistent. Ibid., quoted on p. 17