Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Room 306 by Ben Kamin

Title: Room 306
Author: Ben Kamin
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Michigan State University Press
Publish Date: March 15, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book: 
  • You're a history fan.
  • You're a non-fiction fan.
 What's the Story?:

From "A tragic landmark in the civil rights movement, the Lorraine Motel in Memphis is best known for what occurred there on April 4, 1968. As he stood on the balcony of Room 306, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, ending a golden age of nonviolent resistance, and sparking riots in more than one hundred cities. Formerly a seedy, segregated motel, and prior to that a brothel, the motel quickly achieved the status of national shrine. The motel attracts a variety of pilgrims—white politicians seeking photo ops, aging civil rights leaders, New Age musicians, and visitors to its current incarnation, the National Civil Rights Museum. A moving and emotional account that comprises a panorama of voices, Room 306 is an important oral history unlike any other."

My Two Cents:

This book is sort of hard to describe. It's really the history of a place: Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel. Perhaps room 306 doesn't sound familiar but if you're a lover of history, the Lorraine Motel in Memphis probably sounds familiar. Room 306 was the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was brutally killed as he stood on the balcony of the motel room. The hotel was thrust into American history infamy.

This book tells the story of the motel. Once a monumental, history changing event happens in a place, it's difficult to separate the place from what happened. In my own experience, walking the streets of DC where I live, it's really hard not to look at the famous sites around the city and not think about what happened there. Just the other day, I was driving past the Lincoln Memorial. Even though I live here and have lived around the area since I was four years old, the monuments are still awe-inspiring to me. Obviously the Lincoln Memorial is great monument to a great man but there are so many things that happened on the memorial grounds that I think about when I look at it, including one of MLK's most famous speeches. How amazing would it have been to be there when MLK was speaking? How do you separate a place from what happened there? However, in history, the focus is ultimately on the event and not the place. This book takes a different approach. It actually looks at the place and includes what happened long after the MLK shooting. It's a really fascinating perspective.

There's stories about MLK and how he spent his time in the motel. There's stories about the people who were with MLK when he was shot. There is also stories about The Lorraine Motel as a museum. Room 306 is preserved the exact way that it was when MLK was shot there. It also covers how the motel became the National Civil Rights Museum and how it was almost foreclosed. Some of the stories are not necessarily connected to each other, which was a little jarring as a reader. It sort of took you out of the story of this place a little bit.

Overall, this slim book is a great overview on this important historical place.

Bottom line: History lovers will enjoy this one.



  1. That is an interesting way to approach a story, by telling about the place that it happened. Especially since it was an event that had such an impact on the nation. Great review!

    Kate @ Ex Libris

    1. It was definitely an interesting method but in this case, it worked really, really well!

  2. I love history book and have never read one about MLK, this looks like an interesting book to read. Thanks for the great review!

    1. It was definitely a great history book and so unique!

  3. Great review, i watched a documentary about this motel. Like you, when i visist DC...i am always struck by the history of the sites there. Great review.

    1. I get to see all of these sites all the time living down here and they take my breath away every single time!

  4. Oooh, I'd love to read this. Thanks for the review.


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