The Summer Camp Uprising
a novel by Arthur Sharenow
Paperback, 292 pages
Visit the book’s page at Amazon.com
The background for The Summer Camp Uprising is the Vietnam War. The year is 1969. America is bogged down in a war which appears to be both bloody and pointless to college students subject to the military draft. Many have spent much of the past school year protesting American involvement in the war. Some of that protest went well beyond speeches and angry signs. Students have taken over college buildings and organized sit-down strikes in Dean’s offices.
The protest movement, which started with the war, evolved into clashes between young people and “the establishment” in unexpected places. One such field was Children’s Summer camps, where some of the very same student protestors obtained summer jobs as camp counselors.
The Summer Camp Uprising revolves around three men representing three different generations. Nelson Cohen is the camp owner and director and has been doing things his way with great success for years. Vico Leone is the new Head Counselor, in charge of camp programming as well as staff motivation and discipline. Joey Katz, group leader for the oldest boys, comes to camp after a school year in which he was an active protest leader. Joey has his own ideas on how a camp should be run and is vocal in his opposition to some of the camp’s parietal rules for the Counselors. The conflict of cultures is ripe to explode and does.
Arthur Sharenow has written a deft page-turner about a slow-motion rebellion at a Maine summer camp in the summer of 1969 The heart of the novel (his first published) centers around a test of wills involving a stubborn camp owner (representing the establishment), a rebellious but charismatic counselor who’s a first-class poop stirrer, and the new wishy-washy head counselor who is caught in the middle. Sharenow weaves compelling back stories into the narrative as he brings his characters to life. He throws in a monster rain storm that cuts off the camp from civilization and a harrowing late night car ride to a remote hospital in a driving rain with a gasping young camper struggling to breath in the back seat. Plus the central question of the novel — will the new head counselor ever grow a big pair of onions? Nail-biting? You bet. If you’ve ever been to summer camp or wondered what goes on behind the scenes, there’s only one thing to do: pounce. (PS — the accompanying image is of Eagle Pond in Potter Place, NH, home to Camps Evergreen and Kenwood, which Sharenow ran successfully for several decades).