The Red Suitcase: Hippies, Pinkos and Vagabonds

Date of Completion

January 1998


History, United States|Women's Studies|Literature, American




The Red Suitcase: Hippies, Pinkos and Vagabonds is a creative nonfiction memoir about coming of age in the radical counterculture and Vietnam War protest movements of the late sixties/early seventies. It is also about leaving Massapequa, a Long Island suburb from which several other memoirists have recently sprung, including Ron Kovic, Peggy Noonan, and Betsy Israel. It is about my experiences as a teen age underground press reporter, as the "minister of education" for the White Panther party, and as the self-appointed "delegate for youth culture" to the Paris Peace Talks in 1971. This work arose out of the journals I kept during a time when my intellectual history was greatly influenced by the writing of Emma Goldman, Joan Didion, Doris Lessing, Sylvia Plath, Anais Nin and Boxcar Bertha among others.^ In order to show how private and public history may intersect, I include excerpts from the diaries, letters, and articles which I wrote about my own and my family's participation in events such as Woodstock, the March on Washington, The 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, Kent State; and my travels amid the counter-culture enclaves of Greenwich Village, Chicago, Berkeley, and on the road in Europe. These documents provide a view into the inner lives of hippies and anti-war protesters which is significantly different from the cliches and caricatures common to a discussion of those times. I also place my events within a framework of the era's influential cultural trends, such as confessional poetry, journal writing, alternative radio, underground comics, and the "new journalism."^ In Testament To Youth, Vera Brittain shows what World War One meant to the men and women of her generation. She believed that only by recording a personal version of history could she find and rescue the sense of truth and hope lost or destroyed by the brutal and dehumanizing force of war. Inspired by Brittain and others, I also hope to salvage some sense of the utopianism and the complicated vision of country and self that affected the ideas and influenced the actions of so many in the Vietnam generation. ^