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admin | Category: Sex Crime Offender | 22.09.2013
In celebration of what would have been Jack Kerouac's 90th birthday, we're presenting biographer Gerald Nicosia (Memory Babe), who will be discussing and signing his new book One and Only, about the woman who started Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady on the journey that inspired On the Road.
Winds of change: Marin author Gerald Nicosia chronicles the battles that Vietnam vets had to fight, on the inside and in the world. It's here that Nicosia wrote Home to War (Crown; $30), a big, heartfelt book that chronicles the battles veterans had to fight--for peace, for health care, for their own dignity--when they returned to the states from the jungles of Southeast Asia. Nicosia is the author of four previous books, including Memory Babe, his award-winning biography of Jack Kerouac. In 1967, when he turned 18 and became eligible for the draft, Nicosia followed the dictates of his own conscience and joined the ranks of the anti-war movement at the University of Illinois in Chicago, though he never became a visible leader or a spokesman. His own father urged him to enlist and find a safe job far from the front, but even that option seemed like collaborating with the war-makers, and Nicosia made plans to go into exile in Canada.

Then, in 1971, the draft ended and, like thousands of other young men ripe for military service, Nicosia was off the hook, and finally able to sleep at night. Other veterans, including Bill Troutman--who served in Vietnam during the traumatic Tet offensive of 1968--opened Nicosia's eyes to a war that continued to rage inside.
In 1984, a year after the publication of his monumental biography of Jack Kerouac, Nicosia met Ron Kovic, and though they had taken very different paths in life, they fast became the closest of friends.
OVER THE YEARS, there were other vets who touched Nicosia, including Bobby Waddell, who became a heroin addict while serving in the Air Force in Vietnam and who later spent four years in prison in California on drug charges. In Home to War, Nicosia tells heartbreaking stories about Bobby Waddell, Ron Kovic, and a platoon-sized outfit of other soldiers--without either patronizing them or idealizing them.
Still, if there's a main villain in Nicosia's book, it's the Veterans Administration, the bureaucratic agency that ought to have served as a staunch advocate for the veterans, but that often ignored them, neglected them, shipped them off to living deaths in "miserably dirty, understaffed hospitals." For many of the men who appear in this disturbing book, coming home from Vietnam proved to be a lot more horrible an experience than fighting in the war itself.

At 52, Nicosia is still a pacifist, and still listening to the different drummer that Thoreau describes in Walden. You might say that Nicosia began his journey in 1965, when he was a bright high school student in Berwyn, Ill.--"a redneck, racist place" he calls it--where boys were raised to fight and die for their country. But it was Walden--and Thoreau's message to heed a "different drummer"--that made Nicosia a pacifist and impelled him to resist the war in Vietnam.

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