“Banned in Vermont” by Rosemarie Jackowski (Shires Press, 2010) reviewed by Lea Newman
Contrary to the old adage “You can’t tell a book from its cover” Rosemarie Jackowski’s new book “Banned in Vermont” boasts a cover that is as straight-forward and clear as the book itself. The four words that appear immediately below the author’s name on its cover succinctly describe its method:
” unedited . uncensored . unpretentious . unabashed.”
The peace sign that is stamped just below has the book’s title branded across it, and the international Morse code signal for SOS is repeated below the image. Both announce the book’s content and urgency. The visual impact presages the verbal power of the pages that follow.In the first part of the book Jackowski tells the story of her arrest as one of the twelve defendants whose protest on March 20, 2003, against the United States’ bombing of children in Iraq, temporarily blocked traffic in Bennington, Vermont. (Full disclosure: I followed the story in the Bennington Banner at the time of the protest and arrest, and I wrote a letter to the editor in her defense, but never followed through on her conviction and sentencing, which is the major thrust of the book.)
With plain and simple words she describes being handcuffed and led to a windowless cell… but that was just the beginning of a legal process that took more than four years to be resolved.
The second part of the book is a collection of pieces that Jackowski wrote between 2004 and 2010. Her book’s title has a dual meaning. Not only was she denied the right to express her criticism of her country’s government in a non-violent protest, but after her anti-war views became public, her writings have been rejected in Vermont. The “ban” applied to everything she has written, from serious essays on such subjects as “USA Assassination Plots” to fanciful Christmas fables. The random samplings are representative of Jackowski’s skillful rhetoric, of her dedication to justice, her passion for peace, as well as her wit and humor.
For me, the most engrossing part of the book was the third section: the official court record of the sentencing. It reads like a best-selling legal thriller complete with emotional character witnesses for the defense, the rejection by the judge of a photograph of an Iraqi child with the back of her head blown off by an American bomb because it was deemed “sensational”. The judge appears conflicted by the circumstances of the case but advocates following the strict rule of law. Will Jackowski be sentenced to more jail time? I hate spoiler reviews and I will not reveal “the end of the story.”
Rather I recommend that all should read this book, not only to discover how or whether justice was done, but to learn as much as Rosemarie Jackowski did in living it and writing about it. It should be required reading for anyone who aspires to be a good American.?
Lea Newman, Ph.D. is an author and Professor Emorita at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
BANNED IN VERMONT is available on Amazon, also at the Northshire Book Store, The Bennington Book Store, and The Bennington Free Library.