Author: Jody A. Forrester
Published: Kindle and Paperback – Sept 2020
Publisher: Odyssey Books
I’d like to say a massive thank you to author Jody, and Henry from Odyssey Books, for my review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
From the blurb…
It is 1969 and Jody A. Forrester is in her late teens, transitioning from sixties love child to pacifist anti-Vietnam War activist to an ardent revolutionary. Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary revolves around her three years in the Revolutionary Union, a Communist organization advocating armed overthrow of the ruling class. In readiness for the uprising, she sleeps with two rifles underneath her bed.
One of millions protesting the war, what sets Jody apart her from her peers is her decision to join a group espousing Mao Tse Tung’s ideology of class war. But why? How does she come to embrace violence as the only solution to the inequities inherent in a capitalist empire? To answer that question, Jody goes into her past, and in the process comes to realize that what she always thought of as political is also deeply personal.
More than a coming-of-age story, this memoir tells the more universal truths about seeking a sense of belonging not found in her family with themes of shame, pride, secrecy, self-valuation, and self-acceptance explored in context of the culture and politics of that volatile period in American history
Wow! As I was reading this book, I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t just a story, it was the author’s life. It’s such a raw and heartfelt piece of writing.
In the prologue, Jody comes across some old documents from her time spent in the communist Revolutionary Union (RU). This prompts the idea that she should look more closely at how she spent her time during those years. The memoir moves back and forth through her recollections as she grows up during the revolutionary era. It’s clear that there were things she understood and some things she only thought she had a grasp on.
As background to the retelling, we also receive some precious glimpses into Jody’s younger years and the way in which her relationships with family members shaped the path she found herself taking. Traumatic experiences also have an impact on ones future self and it is with stark honesty that the author describes particular memories. Guns Under the Bed is written in a way that is both interesting and informative, especially if like me you have little knowledge of RU and the era in which it was prevalent.
Even though she was totally committed to RU, Jody really demonstrates through her writing the pressures which she faced to conform with all the rules laid out for her. Whether they were consciously, or subconsciously, difficult to absorb, it definitely showed through her reluctance for recruiting new members and speaking about the cause in a positive way to others. Paranoia and uncertainty seemed to be a strong characteristic theme running throughout the groups she moved in. She definitely managed to hold her own at many demonstrations and with members in senior positions. The years in which RU was all consuming for her seemed an exciting but potentially dangerous time!
Despite no longer being an active member of RU, Jody struggled to shift her reputation and connection to the group; making it extremely difficult for her to meaningfully move on from the cause. She eventually found that taking herself out of the country may be a good option, but despite the stigma of communism falling away, she then found herself battling racism again. I feel that the unwillingness to broadcast her time as a revolutionary was compounded by other previous feelings of shame, which may be considered as an unhelpful filter to look through. Personally I feel that in writing her story, she has accepted those years for what they were and can hopefully feel some pride in her commitment to something bigger. I found myself fully immersed in Jody’s story, especially how she made the transitions into her life now. As previously mentioned, Jody didn’t always have the best of relationships with her parents, and I was particularly touched by the nature of her final conversations with them.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for something real and engrossing. Thank you again to Henry, for the opportunity to read this fantastic book, and to Jody for giving us a piece of herself so fully!
About the author…
Jody A. Forrester was born and raised in Los Angeles during the uneasy Fifties and tumultuous Sixties. She graduated from high school in 1969, while the Vietnam War was raging and the country increasingly divided along racial and class lines. When a freshman at San Jose State University, she joined a communist organization advocating armed overthrow of the United States government. In Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary, Jody reaches into her past to understand how she came to embrace such a violent culture.
A chiropractor by profession, she was forced into retirement by a hand injury requiring surgery. With her time suddenly open, Jody was able to return to her first love, writing fiction and nonfiction stories. She pursued a BA in literature and writing at Antioch College/Los Angeles (2007), and a MFA, also in literature and writing, at Bennington College (2010).
Jody’s essays and short stories have appeared in the Sonora Review, Two Hawks Quarterly, WriteRoom, Dreamers Writing, Citroen Review, Gazelle and several others. A story received an honorable mention in the Anderbo/Open City Competition (2009) and another story was featured in the 6th Annual Emerging Voices Group Show (2010) in Los Angeles.
She lives in Venice, California with her husband, John Schneider and Australian Shepherd Charley, in the house by the beach where they raised their two daughters, Emily and Erin.