I’m so excited for this week’s interview with Jody A. Forrester, whose memoir GUNS UNDER THE BED tells of her transition in the late sixties from love child to peaceful Vietnam War protester to joining a communist organization whose ideology embraced violence against the ruling class! Read below for more about Jody’s incredible background, the story behind her book’s startling title, and her path toward writing. Thank you Jody!
Jody A. Forrester grew up in Los Angeles during the post-war fifties and tumultuous sixties. She practiced as a chiropractor for twenty-four years while raising two daughters with husband John Schneider. After a wrist injury forced her into retirement, she attended Antioch College/LA where she wrote her first stories, and went on to the Bennington Writing Seminars to graduate with a MFA in January, 2010. Her stories and essays have been published in multiple journals.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What kinds of things did you read?
Early on, I discovered reading to be the perfect escape in my youngest years. Transporting me to places and meeting people beyond my imagination took me far away from the home I never felt safe in. In particular, I was mad about books that had horses in them, mysteries like Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew, and fairy tales with woodblock illustrations like Jane Eyre.
If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
Keep sitting down – trust that your story will reveal itself – don’t let fear and lack of self-confidence defeat you.
Tell us about the title of your book. What is the story behind it?
While a member of the Revolutionary Union, the Maoist organization that I joined at eighteen, my boyfriend at the time stashed two rifles under our bed. It horrified me then, and horrifies me now, that such weapons of destruction resided so casually beneath me every night. Trying to understand what drew me at the time to accept such a radical ideology drove my writing of the memoir.
How long did it take you to write this book and what kind of research did you do for it?
While the seed to write the story was planted ten years ago while still a student at the Bennington Writing Seminars, I didn’t actually begin until two years later. In terms of research, I read a lot of books about the political climate in the sixties and seventies, found newspaper articles and magazines from that era, and searched deep into the internet. I also spoke to both former comrades and friends who were activists at the time. Eight years later, to my (and my husband’s) relief, I had done all that I could, and it was ready for release.
Did anything change significantly in your book during the writing or editing process?
In the beginning, I attempted to write it as short stories, because fiction was my preferred genre, but several years later I had to admit that writing nonfiction pieces as fiction just didn’t work. I moved on to writing a series of essays but the idea of a full-length book daunted me. Eventually, in a workshop taught by Samantha Dunn here in Los Angeles, she pushed me to recognize that I had a book, and I’m very happy that she did. At that point, it took another year to weave the essays into a singular arc, and another year to realize what it was actually about.
Interview with Jody A. Forrester, author of GUNS UNDER THE BED https://t.co/hxezHeTAw7
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) November 18, 2020
MORE ABOUT THE BOOK
It is 1969 and Jody A. Forrester is in her late teens, transitioning from a 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 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 histor