What Really Happened to the Class of ’93: Start-Ups, Dropouts, and Other Navigations Through an Untidy Decade
by Chris Colin
Publisher: Broadway Books
Summary: This book examines what became of some members of the class of ’93 of one Virginia high school by their 10th annual reunion. Class of ’93 has tremendous human interest, but readers have to figure out what it means for themselves.
Review: High school experiences make an indelible impression. I can still remember the sights, sounds, and smells of my alma mater – and I can still taste the cafeteria food. Whatever comes after high school is unlikely to match the intensity, drama, and angst of those four years.
There is something intriguing about what finding out what happened to one’s classmates. Though I thought that I would never do so, I attended one of my high school class’ reunions and was surprised to see that many of my classmates had grown into successful, mature adults. In 1993, author Chris Colin graduated a magnet school in suburban Washington, D.C. – the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. Ten years later, he set out to interview his classmates about their experiences in high school and after graduation. The result is What Really Happened to the Class of ’93.
The book profiles sixteen of the four hundred-odd seniors from Colin’s class. The book includes an introduction, some chapters on scattered topics that influenced class members during 1993-2003 (such as 9-11), and concludes with a few pages on the reunion. But the bulk of the text is in the profiles.
Colin focuses on classmates who have had dramatic changes in their lives. The chapters include interviews with –
– a guy who was almost expelled for bringing an air rifle to school,
– an uncomfortable meeting with Colin’s former girlfriend, who is married to another of their classmates from ’93,
– a gay classmate who has since contracted HIV,
– a former jock who calls himself Fire Mountain and lives in a Zen retreat in California, and
– a classmate who reveals that he was transgendered and is now living as a woman. Also, she is an anarchist who has traveled the country by hopping trains.
The final profile examines the class “golden boy” – who committed suicide.
By choosing classmates whose lives had taken dramatic turns, Colin keeps the reader’s interest. However, one could argue that these stories do not typify the choices made by young people during 1993-2003.
Colin heavily focuses on politics with a particular emphasis on gay rights. If Colin is correct, people at Jefferson High spent much more time concerning themselves with “the culture wars” than did people at my high school. In my recollection, we were obsessed with beer, girls, music, and sports.
The author makes no secret of the fact that he was a liberal in high school – and remained a liberal after graduation. Some conservatives may not like his perspective. I thought that Colin had trouble keeping himself out of the story when interviewing some of his more-conservative classmates (including a congressional aide, a West Point graduate, and Chris Sununu – the son of George H.W. Bush’s Chief of Staff, John Sununu).
Colin admits that he patterned his book after What Really Happened to the Class of ’65 by Michael Medved and David Wallechinsky. If I had to criticize both books, I would say that these stories were written too early. At the ten-year reunion, people are still in their late-20s and their are many roads left to travel. I would love to see an update on what has become of the people featured in Colin’s book.
Still, Class of ’93 is a solid book that will entertain readers.