Expansive and hopeful, Parkland sketches a moving portrait of the teenaged founders of the March for Our Lives movement.
Across twenty-one fast-paced chapters journalist Dave Cullen thoughtfully examines the student-led protest against gun violence that erupted in the wake of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th, 2018. The author sketches nuanced profiles of the media stars of March for Our Lives (MfOL)—Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky, David Hogg—as well as the group’s less visible members, as he incisively analyzes the strategy behind the students’ major protests and considers their extraordinary impact on the national debate surrounding gun control.
The author’s account of the organization is multifaceted. Frequently interviewing students from Parkland, Cullen interweaves their own experience of what happened and their beliefs about what their movement represents with research about gun violence, post-traumatic stress disorder, and coping mechanisms. The book validates the students’ beliefs and usefully contextualizes them in a larger social framework, positioning the U.S. as a nation plagued by preventable shootings and broken government.
In plain prose Cullen also fully renders the turbulent inner lives of the Florida students who organized MfOL. He sensitively portrays the sense of community and loss they experienced in the wake of the tragedy, and he vividly depicts their rage toward corrupt politicians, apathetic adults, and right-wing provocateurs. The author focuses as much on the kids’ high-profile protests as he does their daily routines, and he makes painfully clear the many difficulties they have navigating between the two worlds.
The book lacks anything approaching a thesis, but from start to finish it well develops a small set of themes. The privileged students’ fraught but sustained effort to connect with Black youth gun control activists and amplify their voices; the unbearable emotional toll of the shooting; the media’s obsession with creating “celebrity” shooters and survivors; the group’s struggle to balance attending school and extracurriculars with developing a comprehensive, bipartisan gun control agenda. Cullen’s choice to approach MfOL through multiple lens seems especially apt for a movement that’s still ongoing.
Broad in scope and eminently readable, Parkland captures the trials and triumphs of the Florida suburb’s student activists during their first year of protest. While the book’s a sharp profile of the students of MfOL, it also brilliantly captures the country’s shifting cultural climate toward guns, and it’s well worth checking out.