On Friday, students in Charles Shuttleworth’s class on Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation received a special visit from Jami Cassady Ratto, daughter of influential beat writer Neal Cassady, whose works were a major influence on Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and other important counterculture writers. Joined by her husband, Randy, Ratto shared excerpts from a famous letter that Neal Cassady wrote to Kerouac, which had a major impact on the style that Kerouac later became famous for in works such as “On the Road.” She also reminisced about her time growing up in early 1960s Los Gatos and told stories about her father, Kerouac and other cultural icons of the time, including the Grateful Dead.
Julie Wheeler’s AP US History students were invited to sit in on one of the classes and were given a brief overview of the Beat Generation and its works by Shuttleworth’s students, covering the authors’ disillusionment with 1950s American culture, their jazz-influenced writing style and their importance to later counterculture movements.
“The students told me they really enjoyed the experience,” said Shuttleworth. “It was another opportunity for them to interact directly with a primary source and experience living history.”