Seventeen-year-old Ashe Douglas records the events of 1968 in a novel in haiku.
Ashe was born on May 17, 1951, and is a senior in high school during the year he decides to describe in haiku, liking the tidiness of the three-line, 17-syllable form. The year is 1968, when more soldiers died in the Vietnam War than in any other year. Ashe decides not only to write haiku, but to dedicate a syllable to each soldier killed—976 haiku equals 16,592 syllables equals the number of soldiers killed in 1968. An entire story “contained by a syllable count.” Not only is that asking a lot of its diminutive form, but so much happened in 1968: the war, race riots, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, let alone Ashe’s family life, which resembles a war zone. Haiku stanzas just can’t contain it all, being ill equipped for the depth or context necessary for a rich historical novel. But what transcends contrivance and gimmickry is Ashe’s voice, and haiku are well-suited to carry that. With newspaper headlines, death tolls, and overwhelming world, national and domestic events in the background, one boy’s clear and earnest voice records his life: “I’ll / write what needs to be / remembered and leave it to / you to fill in the gaps.”
A memorable / and innovative story / of one wrenching year. (historical note, author’s note) (Historical fiction/poetry. 12-16)