Everybody Reads to Celebrate Release of Michael Kindman Bio

Former Lansing resident and veteran of the Vietnam era underground press Ken Wachsberger will lead a celebration of the life of Michael Kindman at EVERYbody Reads, 2019 East Michigan Avenue, Lansing, 7 p.m. Thursday February 2, 2012.

The event marks the release of My Odyssey through the Underground Press, the riveting, at times chilling, ultimately inspirational, and always captivating autobiography of Kindman, one of the local and national legends of the Vietnam era underground press. Kindman’s story is volume 2 of Wachsberger’s classic Voices from the Underground Series (published by Michigan State University Press).

Wachsberger spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at EVERYbody Reads on March 3, 2011 to celebrate publication of volume 1 of Voices from the Underground. Both volumes will be available for purchase.

My Odyssey begins in September 1963, when Kindman entered Michigan State University as one of nearly two hundred students from around the country who had been awarded National Merit Scholarships, underwritten by MSU and usable only there. Together, they represented by far the largest group of Merit Scholars in any school’s freshman class.

They arrived, brilliant minds all, expecting to find a vibrant cultural and academic oasis. They didn’t, not at the nation’s first agricultural land grant college, so they were forced to look elsewhere. The Vietnam War was raging, though it hadn’t yet entered the general public’s consciousness. But the raging inner-city ghettoes already had brought civil rights to the forefront of the country’s imagination. In East Lansing, open housing crystallized a small portion of a latent radical community. Kindman joined that community, first as a reporter for the State News, MSU’s student paper, then  as the founder of The Paper, East Lansing’s first underground newspaper and one of the first five members of Underground Press Syndicate, this country’s first nationwide network of underground papers.

In early 1968, he was drawn to a paper from Boston, Avatar, that spoke often in poetry, always in spiritual and mystical terms, and he headed east to check it out. Kindman was welcomed by the staff, dug in as a member, and discovered too late that the large, experimental commune that controlled Avatar was a charismatic cult centered on a former-musician-turned-guru named Mel Lyman, whose psychic hold over his followers was being strengthened and intensified by means of various confrontations and loyalty tests.

Five years later, Kindman fled the commune’s rural outpost in Kansas and headed west, where he settled in San Francisco, came out as a gay man, and changed his name to Mica. When Kindman wrote this important journey into self-discovery, he was a key activist in the gay men’s pagan spiritual network Radical Faeries, a student, and a person with AIDS. He died peacefully on November 22, 1991, two months after submitting the final draft of his story.

Forewords are by legendary sixties-era author and satirist Paul Krassner, who is often considered the father of the underground press; and Tommi Avicolli Mecca, author, gay activist, and long-time veteran of the gay press.

Michael Kindman’s revealing memoir … will take you through his adventures and misadventures in the larger context of an evolutionary jump in consciousness, from hippie to the New Age, from a control freak’s cult to individual freedom, from sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to a spiritual revolution. Ultimately, this book will serve as a multi-faceted slice of countercultural history.—Paul Krassner

Mica’s recapitulation, as he calls it, is a record of an era long past, a time when idealism wasn’t a bad word and questioning was a rite of passage for many of America’s young people. Recapitulations such as his can only help us better understand the strengths of the struggles of the past and how to avoid the mistakes that were all too often made.—Tommi Avicolli Mecca

The 4-volume Voices from the Underground Series is a collection of histories of underground papers from the Vietnam era as told by key people on each of the papers. The underground press was the independent, antiwar press of the Vietnam era that told the true story, which the corporate papers suppressed, of what our government was doing behind our backs to the Vietnamese people in our name and with our tax dollars, while giving voice to the liberation movements of the period.

Stories in the series represent the gay, lesbian, feminist, Black, Puerto Rican, Native American, military, prisoners’ rights, socialist, new age, rank-and-file, Southern consciousness, psychedelic, and other independent antiwar voices of the era as never before told.

Voices from the Underground was called “the most important book on American journalism published in my lifetime” by In These Times when it appeared in an earlier version in 1993. The Los Angeles Times said it “comes closer than anything I’ve yet read to putting the sights, sounds and texture of the ‘60s on paper.”

Editor Ken Wachsberger is a long-time author, editor, educator, political organizer, public speaker, and consultant who has written, edited, and lectured widely on the Vietnam era, the Holocaust and Jewish resistance during World War II, the First Amendment, writing for self-discovery, and other issues.

Volumes 3 and 4 both are due out in 2012. Ken may be reached at ken@voicesfromtheunderground.com for interviews and speaking invitations.

4 Responses

  1. Finally! I ordered this book for our library last Spring and for some reason it just arrived this morning! I am looking forward to reading this book this weekend.

    • I can’t believe you wrote to me. You’ve been on my list of people to write. (I’m a little behind.) I loved your 4-part “Occupy the OccuPAST: Echoes of Dissidence in the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection” and wanted to thank you for including volumes 1 and 2 of my Voices from the Underground Series on your list of new books. Volume 3 will be out next month; volume 4 will be out in August or September. We need to talk.

  2. Wow! Thanks for reading that piece for the OWS Library. It needed some serious editing. It seems like there is a growing interest in the counterculture papers right now. I just read the “Table of Contents” for volume 3 of your series and look forward to ordering that book for both myself and our library. I was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1970 so I’m particularly interested in reading the chapter on The Kudzu in your volume 3.

    I started the Kindman book this weekend and love it! Right now I’m in the section where he is trying to “find himself” in Mel Lyman’s commune. I knew a little about “The Paper” from John McMillian’s Smoking Typewriters but I really didn’t know much about “Avatar.” I just keep wanting to yell into the book, “get the #*%&@ out of that place!”

    I love Kindman’s candidness and really enjoyed his recollections of founding and editing, “The Paper.” That you first contacted Kindman to talk to him about “Avatar” forgetting that he was the founder of the “The Paper,” the great great grandfather of your own MSU paper is a hoot! I just wish he was still with us to celebrate this book. Very appropriate, however, that it is published by MSU Press!

    Will be checking back for info. on the release of volume 3!

    • Great story by David Doggett on The Kudzu. One of the great papers of the Deep South, along with Great Speckled Bird, from volume 1.

      Mica’s piece is brilliant. Sad yet uplifting. The Paper was one of the legendary papers. John McM contacted me while he was writing his book, wondered if I had any pictures of Mica that I could share. Unfortunately I only had two and they were both going into volume 2, which hadn’t come out yet. Avatar was an interesting paper, and who knew about cults in the late sixties? But what an amazing look at the inner workings of one of the most well known from the period. Mica died two months after finishing his book. I believe he only lived that long so he could make sense of his story. My talk about volume 2 last month is on YouTube now. Google “Ken Wachsberger” and “Youtube” to find it. I’ll be speaking about it again in San Francisco in June. MSU Press went for the series because of his book and my story of the Lansing area underground press in volume 1.

      Happy to talk further with you if you want to review it (or even if you don’t). Keep in touch.

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