In honor of Veterans Day, we asked several staff members to name a book they would think appropriate for the day. Here are their responses:
Nicki: Mila 18 by Leon Uris is a book I read years ago but it has stayed with me all this time. It takes place during World War II, in Poland. Mila 18 is the name of a street, and it’s where a Jewish resistance group in the Warsaw ghetto had their headquarters.
Brenda G.: I always think of Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad. It’s not a war story per se, but it deals with the honor and duty in a thoughtful way. As the story opens, a young seaman abandons ship with the rest of the crew, leaving their passengers on a sinking ship. The consequences of that action make up the rest of the story.
Brenda D.: For me, the book is Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation. It’s a collection of personal interviews with people who lived through the Great Depression, survived World War II, and then came home to build their lives and families. It’s a real tribute.
Ambrea: When I think about books for Veteran’s Day, I often think about The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Although I read O’Brien’s novel several years ago as a junior in high school, The Things They Carried has stayed with me since then as a quintessential war story. I know it’s just fiction. I know Kiowa, Norman Bowker, Jimmy Cross, and even the Tim O’Brien as we know him in the book does not actually exist—but they could. The Things They Carried is a collection of stories based during and after the Vietnam War and, while largely fiction, it has a thread of truth to it that made it feel profound and, truthfully, jarring. It’s not an autobiography or a memoir, as we might normally think of it, but so much of it feels like the real thing. It’s a heart-wrenching story of loss and guilt, hope and desperation, and living with the knowledge that you were the one who didn’t get left behind.
Kristin: I have two books. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott is a well written history of four women who broke free from the societal expectations of their day. Alternating chapters draw the strings of the stories together as the book progresses.
Next, The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernen shows the lives of the workers who were brought into Oak Ridge, Tennessee in order to enrich uranium for the first atomic bombs. Nestled within the mountainous ridges and cut off from the surrounding towns, the complex became a community of thousands practically overnight. After reading this, I visited the American Museum of Science and Industry in Oak Ridge and was fascinated to see exhibits explaining the science of the uranium refinement and the housing and social opportunities available to workers.
Jeanne: I also have two that quickly came to mind. One is Edie Ernst, Allied Spy by Brooke McEldowney which is actually a collection of comic strips from his comic 9 Chickweed Lane which revolves around the lives of the Burber women: daughter Edda, mother Juliette, and grandmother Edna aka “Edie.” Readers know Edna as a cranky old woman, always ready with a harsh word for her daughter or granddaughter. This series of strips tells us about Edie as young woman during World War II and gave me a whole new view of the character. I did a longer review which you can read here.
The other book—or books, because the story is in two parts—is Connie Willis’ Blackout and All Clear. In the future, students at Oxford can travel back in time to observe important historical events. The books follow several students who are in different parts of England during World War II, experiencing what it was like for ordinary people, civilians and soldiers on the British home front, during the Blitz. The full review of these books is here.