(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

In The Strawberry Statement: Notes of a College Revolutionary, James Simon Kunen, a nineteen-year-old Columbia University sophomore, attempts to explain his generation of rebellious college students. The first third of the 156-page book chronicles in journal fashion Kunen’s somewhat diffident participation in the protests at Columbia University between April 22 and June 4, 1968. Most of the remainder of the book recounts Kunen’s summer—during which he is involved with the court system, works on his book, travels to visit draft resisters in Canada, falls in love, and attends Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) meetings—and presents his thoughts on such subjects as long hair, religion, the Vietnam War, and baseball. Throughout the work, he takes a humorously cynical view of both mainstream and radical society. He believes that society is disintegrating but is not ready to join those calling for armed revolution. He says he will give the republic one more chance but suspects that “democracy cannot be revived through democratic means.”