Friday, June 12, 2009

No Right to Remain Silent (NF 2009) - Lucinda Roy

No Right to Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech (NF 2009) - Lucinda Roy

If you're looking for an examination of the events leading up to the Virginia Tech tragedy of April 16, 2007 or an investigative look into the killer Seung-Hui Cho, this probably isn't the book for you. This is a memoir about one person's connection to the shooting that left thirty-two students and faculty dead. It is also a cry for reform and for change within academia. Author Lucinda Roy states in her introduction:

It is the story of a university hampered both by its own labyrinthine bureaucracy and by the dogged determination of its administration to protect itself. It is about a system of public education in dire need of reform - one which, is the case of Virginia Tech, resulted in conflicts of interest and a chronic inability to respond swiftly to crisis situations.

Red flags appeared early in Cho's creative writing. A student in Nikki Giovanni's poetry class, Cho wrote poetry accusing class members of cannibalism and genocide, among other things. When Giovanni banished him from the class, English Department Head Roy decided to meet with Cho one on one. The results are both frustrating and chilling. It was clear to Roy that something was deeply disturbing Cho, but after repeated warnings to people who could have helped, very little was done.

Roy examines many interesting points: writing as therapy, how society views killers, access to weapons, what can be done, what can't be done and how we deal with the aftermath of such a tragic event. Recommended.

(As an aside, one thing really bothers me about the book: Roy uses "4/16" throughout the book, comparing the event to 9/11. Yes, the Virginia Tech tragedy was terrible, but it wasn't 9-11. Yes, they were both terrorists acts, both terrible events that shouldn't be forgotten. But do we really need to mark every terrible event that happens in this country with a date?)

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