So Much Older Then

Coming of Age When the World Is Coming Apart

Non-Fiction - Memoir
224 Pages
Reviewed on 03/23/2021
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Author Biography

Paul Kuehnert is a nurse and an executive leader in public health. Paul’s career choice—nursing—grew directly out of his experiences in the antiwar and civil rights movements of the late 1960s and early1970s. It was shaped, at first, by his desire to be contrarian: to bend gender norms by being a man in a “woman’s” profession. Later, as he began practicing nursing, he found that it was not only a profession, but also a vocation. His commitment to nursing, particularly in public health, provided him with the means to act every day in concrete ways to further healing, build community, and seek justice. He has done so for the last 45 years in partnership with others in several urban, suburban, and rural communities on issues ranging from infant mortality and lead poisoning to HIV/AIDS.
So Much Older Then. Coming of Age When the World is Coming Apart (Bookbaby, March 2021) is Paul’s first book. He is the author of eight chapters in nursing, public health, and sociology textbooks, as well as more than two dozen commentaries and peer-reviewed articles. Paul is the president & chief executive officer of the Public Health Accreditation Board based in Alexandria, Virginia. He holds the Doctor of Nursing Practice and the Master of Science degrees from University of Illinois-Chicago. He resides with his wife in Hallowell, Maine.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

So Much Older Then: Coming of Age When the World is Coming Apart is a work of non-fiction in the memoir genre. It is suitable for the general reading audience and was penned by author Paul Kuehnert. The book tells the story of the author’s experiences of growing up in the Midwest during the Vietnam War. Traumatized early on by the sudden and violent death of a childhood friend, the author tells of the impact on his life of coming to terms with the loss and deciding to take direct non-cooperation action to protest against the war being fought. He impresses on the reader throughout the parallels between his direct action against war with the need for direct action in the modern world.

Author Paul Kuehnert delivers a powerful and insightful memoir of his life growing up during the Vietnam War. Kuehnert does a masterful job of balancing the darker and grittier parts of the memoir with an overall message of hope. One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was the author's attention to detail and their ability to create vivid imagery, although at times this made it more harrowing to read; the message hit all the harder for it. So Much Older Then tells a story of bravery, standing up for what you believe and the challenges and results that come with this. This memoir will send you on an emotional journey alongside Kuehnert, one that will leave you feeling respect for the actions he took to stand up for what he felt was right, and empathy for him as he lives through current times. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to fans of memoirs, and those who are interested in emotive and thought-provoking stories.

Jon Michael Miller

So Much Older Then: Coming of Age When the World is Coming Apart, a memoir by Paul Kuehnert of resistance in the late sixties, early seventies, is a close account of the evolution of conscience for this self-described “church youth leader, organizer and rebel.” The fulcrum of Mr. Kuehnert’s development was his public refusal to register for Selective Service during the Vietnam War. His antiwar activities were closely related to the Walther League Society, a youth wing of the Missouri Lutheran Synod. He describes his politically liberal family and friends and his ardent travels around the country promoting resistance to the war, activities that branched out to the issues of poverty, hunger and racism but which grew into serious doubts during his arrest and brief jail time in the Mayday Demonstrations in D.C., 1972. Like Christ, Paul takes some time in the wilderness, his in the Warren Dunes of Lake Michigan, days that clarified (somewhat) his battle with individual action of conscience even without its larger effect on mass opinion.

Though a bit older than Mr. Kuehnert, I could have been his shadow minus the religious affiliation. So I read with interest his “coming of age, of conscience” which so many of us experienced during those troubled times. We had to make serious choices, and like Mr. Kuehnert’s, those decisions were not easy. Along with them came decisions of lifestyle, professional growth, and love, all of which So Much Older Then (title from a Dylan song) presents in such detail that the retrospective must have been anchored by Kuehnert’s personal journals of the time. The memoir will bring back so many fond and troubling memories for all of that “peacenik” generation, but more than that in how history has repeated itself in our present turbulent political times. I identified deeply with Paul Kuehnert’s splendid memoir So Much Older Then, and others will too.

Joe Wisinski

So Much Older Then: Coming of Age When the World Is Coming Apart begins with the tragic story of the death of an acquaintance of author Paul Kuehnert. His friend, Vic, died in Vietnam. Partially because of this tragedy, Kuehnert questions the United States’ involvement in the war. On a much more personal level, he debates whether he would register for the draft, as required by law when he turned 18. Kuehnert’s Christian faith complicates his decision because his beliefs simultaneously tell him to obey authority and yet to live a life of peace. He decides not to register and furthermore becomes involved in the anti-war movement. As a result, he undergoes arrest and ill-treatment by law enforcement officers. Later Kuehnert changes his mind and registers.

This is a fascinating book, cover-to-cover. I could feel Paul Kuehnert’s anguish as he weighed the momentous decision on whether to follow the law by registering for the draft. But beyond Kuehnert’s personal story, this book takes readers back to the 1960s when the U.S.A. was drastically divided. I was quite young then and, although I remember some of the country’s disharmony, Kuehnert’s account reminded me of just how horrendous the events were. This book reads more like a novel than an autobiography, which is part of what makes it so enjoyable to read. Even though the subject matter is weighty, Kuehnert kept me interested throughout. I recommend So Much Older Then: Coming of Age When the World Is Coming Apart to anyone who remembers the terrible days of the Vietnam War or wants to learn more about those times.