cover image Hurricane Street

Hurricane Street

Ron Kovic. Akashic, $15.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-61775-450-0

In this brief but compelling snapshot of early 1970s activism, Kovic recalls the sit-in and hunger strike he led in 1974 to protest the poor quality of the care he and other disabled Vietnam veterans were receiving at the VA hospital in Long Beach, Calif. He sets the mood quickly with references to the era’s music and vivid descriptions of the hospital’s grim environment. Stirred by deplorable conditions and corrupt aides, Kovic eventually writes a book (Born on the 4th of July, the basis for the 1989 blockbuster film of the same name) and organizes the protest depicted here. Kovic selected the site strategically: it was the office of California senator Al Cranston, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, who was up for re-election at the time. The small group of Vietnam veterans, in wheelchairs and wearing combat medals, made for dramatic news footage when they appeared at Cranston’s office one morning and turned it into a “makeshift VA hospital ward.” Without social media or cell phones to boost the signal, it was Kovic’s flair for the dramatic and ability to marshal reporters that turned the protest into a battle victory. His account of subsequent, less successful protests could easily have been omitted, but Kovic’s updates on the fates of his fellow veterans provide a memorable and bittersweet conclusion. (July)