WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY

One hundred pages into Mark Kurlansky’s 1968: The Year That Rocked the World is a photo from April 7, 1968, showing a National Guardsman, rifle erect, in front of a burned building in D.C. in the wake of the riots after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. This is what I remember: I was 7 years old, living a block and a half from the District line in Takoma Park. My father would cross the line to catch the J6 bus to work, but it was a journey Mom and I seldom made. One afternoon in 1968, Dad put us into the Buick and drove us down the street toward a dull, gray horizon. We crossed that invisible checkpoint at Carroll Avenue and headed downtown. I can’t say I remember much in detail: still-smoldering businesses, broken glass, clusters of people—I won’t repeat what my father called them—standing amid crumbled stone. It remains the strangest sightseeing trip I’ve ever had. My father’s unspoken message was as clear as it was shameful: Here’s what these people are really like. And with King, King, King suddenly ringing through the halls of my liberal elementary school like the name of a new Beatle, it was not a message I accepted unquestioningly. Kurlansky—himself born in 1948 and with “a vision of authority shaped by the memory of the peppery taste of tear gas”—recounts a year in which many of us were caught in the cultural crossfire at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, free, (202) 364-1919, and at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15, at Borders, 5871 Crossroads Center Way, Baileys Crossroads, free, (703) 998-0404. (Pamela Murray Winters)

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