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Kent State

Kent State

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By Derf Backderf. Published by Abrams.

Hardcover, 288 pages, B&W, 2020.

2021 Eisner Award Winner

A 2021 ALA/YALSA Alex Award Winner for Teen Readers and Adult Books


From Derf Backderf, the bestselling author of My Friend Dahmer, comes the tragic and unforgettable story of the Kent State shootings​

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 will be published in time for 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.


“[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
“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
"Deeply researched and gut-wrenching…”
The New Yorker
“One of the masterpieces of the medium...a work of devastating emotional impact.”
Forbes, Rob Salkowitz
“The meticulous research is shown in more than two dozen pages of notes, confirming the sources from the Kent State University May 4 Collection about the shootings, but also Backderf’s personal research and interviews.”
The Akron Beacon Journal
Kent State is meticulously researched…Backderf is in total artistic control of his material.”
Cleveland Review of Books
“Derf Backderf brings historical context and a propulsive sense of narrative to this graphical history of the Kent State shootings.”
book critic, Etelka Lehoczky
“The book not only illuminates history but also brings a form of closure to an unforgivable, inexcusable episode.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Kent State, unfolding in sober black and white, is as passionate as it is meticulous in its treatment of the May 4, 1970 killings of four unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard.”
The New York Times Book Review
“While removed from the events by a half-century, by the time the memoir spirals into the final spasm of chaos, the tragedy these boldly drawn panels feel fresh as if from yesterday's news.”
“Surely the graphic novel of the year, and an early entry onto the next Best of the Decade lists.”
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