Archive for August 29, 2008

Sunrise Over Fallujah and Generation Kill

In this historically important election year, one of the hot-button issues is the war in Iraq. To be honest, it seems that for many young people, the war doesn’t necessarily resonate as strongly as other issues. Many of us are fortunate enough to be removed physically from the violence that is occurring in the Middle East, but how many more of us find ourselves removed emotionally from the war as well? How often do you think about the brave young soldiers that are only 18 or 19 years old and on their first tour of duty in Iraq? Can we ever understand what they are going though and the day-to-day horrors they have seen?
Two recent works on the Iraq war, for different demographics, and in different formats, have caught my attention. First, there was the HBO miniseries event Generation Kill,
based on a true story of a Rolling Stone reporter Evan Wright, who rode with the Marines of First Recon Battalion during the first 40 days of the Iraq war. The exceptionally well-executed series is not, I repeat – NOT – for children, as it is rated R, and the viewing audience should really be mature 17 year olds and older. It is very violent and has suggestive adult content.
Okay, disclaimer aside, why am I writing about it on a teen blog? First, the show will appeal to older teens. Plus, this war is an important topic for high school seniors considering a military career, or any students who know people who are in the armed forces. From a librarian point of view we also have the book that the series is based on in our collection – Generation kill : Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the new face of American war.
Another reason why I wanted to mention the series because it closely parallels Sunrise Over Fallujah, the newest book by Walter Dean Myers. By random chance, I started reading the book as Generation Kill aired, and felt like the characters were converging in this fictional Iraq, maybe sharing the same mess hall, or being sent into battle alongside each other. Generation Kill presents war as hell, with incompetent superior officers and soldiers who are decent people, but even better warriors. The mission is unclear and the enemy is often undistinguishable from the civilians they are assigned to help. So how do you proceed? The series highlights the many trials and errors of war with well-developed characters and the fast-paced, witty dialogue that HBO is known for.
In contrast, the book Sunrise Over Fallujah, offers a deeper and more introspective look at war, and the issues of right vs. wrong. The narrator is Robin “Birdy” Perry, a young recruit from Harlem who is sent to Iraq in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He’s a good guy, young, smart and patriotic. After September 11, he decided to enlist instead of pursuing college, much to his father’s dismay. He keeps correspondence with his uncle, Richie Perry, who was the main character of Myer’s book Fallen Angels, about a young soldier in Vietnam. Birdy and the other main characters (Marla, the tough-chick gunner, and Jonesy, the blues-loving kid from Georgia) interact well and add their own commentary about the war, and what it means to fight for a cause you don’t clearly understand. The characters pull you in and break your heart with their observations of a strange war in a strange land with rules of engagement that change as soon as you commit them to memory. If you get a chance to read one historical fiction novel about the war in Iraq, this one is notable, especially if later paired with the series Generation Kill.
I wish you all a happy and safe Labor Day weekend,

Newes from the dead

If you enjoy morbid historical fiction, like I do, I recommend that you check out the book Newes from the Dead. The book is based on a true story of a young English girl in the year 1650 who is accused of infanticide, and later hanged, for giving birth to a stillborn baby. As if that weren’t unfortunate enough, she wakes up on the dissection table in the middle of her autopsy. And you thought you were having a bad day.
Anne Green’s predicament begins when an affair with a wealthy aristocrat goes wrong. As a lowly servant girl, she is easily influenced by the advances of Geoffrey Reade, the aristocratic grandson of her employer, Sir Thomas. Of course, the affair goes awry, leaving a pregnant Anne to deal with the consequences, and the charming Geoffrey decides to marry another rich aristocrat and make… lots of baby aristocracy elsewhere. Or at least that’s my theory. Anne tries to miscarry by drinking various concoctions, but that seemingly doesn’t help matters much – until she gives birth to a stillborn. This doesn’t sit well with the 17th century Englishfolk, and Anne is accused of being a murderess and a liar, since nobody believes that she gave birth to her master’s illigitimate grandchild. Very soap-opera. Without witnesses to the stillbirth, she is off to the gallows after an awful stint in jail. Her corpse is received for dissection by Robert Mathews, a young medical student at Oxford, and she is presumed dead. Once Robert notices her eyes twitching, it is up to him to convince others that she is still alive (or as fans of the Princess Bride would say, mostly dead).
Overall, I felt the book had a very chilling feel, especially when describing how she felt being in limbo. The author used different narrative voices to split the tale into Anne’s voice and the medical students, offering two different perspectives and a slow build to the plot. There was also a reprint from the actual historical event that the book is based on at the back of the book, which lends authenticity if you can get past the Olde English spellings. This novel is a good choice for fans of historical fiction who like to add a twist of real-life horror to the mix. I found it enjoyable and creepy at the same time.