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Snuggle up to a Good Book

by Circe Woessner

In the cold winter months, the temptation to stay indoors wrapped in fleece, sipping hot cocoa grows stronger. It’s a time for reading books or indulging in TV series marathons and watching the weather outside from the warmth of the living room window. The word “chilling” takes on new meaning.

This time of year, people often ask me for a few book recommendations to read or to give away as gifts. I’m always happy to oblige. Here are some favorites from our museum’s collection. Fiction or non-fiction, there’s something here for everybody.

BRAT” HISTORY

Sometimes called the “Brat Bible”, “Military Brats” is a must-read for anyone trying to better understand the military lifestyle and its lasting impact on the family. Many adult brats, while trying to come to terms with who they are, and why they act the way they do, have found this book helpful in understanding how their unusual childhood continues to influence their adulthood.

 “MILITARY BRATS: Legacies of Childhood inside the Fortress” by Mary Edwards Wertsch

Wertsch spent five years researching her subject, conducting interviews with eighty military brats from all the armed services as well as physicians, teachers, psychologists and social workers. “Military Brats” examines all aspects—good and bad–of being raised in a military family.

 MEMOIRS

As an Army wife, I was struck by the similarities—and the differences– of being military today compared with a century ago. This book is an amazing snapshot into frontier life and the women who served alongside their soldiers.

“I Married a Soldier” by Lydia Lane Spencer

First published in 1893, Lydia Spencer Lane recalls her life as a young army bride on the Southwestern frontier. In 1854, Lane accompanied her husband to his first post in Texas. For almost two decades, she crossed the Great Plains by wagon seven times, traveled nearly 8,000 miles, raised three children, and became accustomed to tours of duty that required the family to move at least every six months to a different set of military forts, frontier garrisons, and trailside bivouacs across New Mexico and Texas.

Three memoirs written by daughters whose fathers served in the 1940’s and 50’s offer snapshots into the lives of military families.

“The War Came Home With Him” by Catherine Madison

 Madison tells the stories of two survivors of one man’s war: a father who survived a prison camp’s unspeakable inhumanity for three years and a daughter who withstood the residual cruelty that came home with him. Although her father died fifty years after his ordeal, he never discussed his POW experiences. Madison’s memoir offers a powerful, intimate perspective on what happens to a family when a wounded soldier brings his war home.

“Still Having Fun: A Portrait of the Military Marriage of Rex and Bettie George”

by Candace George Thompson


 This sweet biography of a military marriage, which lasted from 1941 until 2007, includes everything from letters written in war zones to photographs that chronicle the lives and romance of Rex and Bettie George. Written by their daughter, Candace George Thompson, after their deaths, “Still Having Fun” is a moving testament to the character and resilience of American military families.

“War Ready: In My Father’s Shadow” by Mary Lou Darst

“War Ready” is a candid memoir of growing up in an Army family in Alaska, Virginia, Japan, Texas, and Germany immediately following World War II. Darst was a child living in Japan in 1952 and in Germany in 1957. For a young girl, it was the adventure of a lifetime as she explored new cultures at a time when the world was being rebuilt and redefined. Darst weaves together her memories and those of her father, through reading her father’s diary, which offers up intimate and candid insight into the life of a typical soldier in a time of war.

 Historical Fiction:

 Zolbrod is the 2016 Writer-in-Residence for our museum, and what drew me to his novel “Battle Song” is the way it began:

“The inductees were all old enough to remember the Second World War, when the newly drafted were paraded through the streets in broad daylight like heroes, not smuggled out through the alleyways at night . . . But when these youngsters left to fight in Korea in 1951, there was neither ceremony nor public sadness. They were simply taken away from life and noise and freedom to fight a war that people even wanted to pretend did not exist…”

“Battle Songs: A Story of the Korean War in Four Movements” By Paul Zolbrod

 This is the story of four young men drafted to fight in Korea in the early 1950s. Told from four different perspectives, “Battle Songs” contrasts the horrors of the battlefield with accounts of mid-twentieth-century life in rural Pennsylvania.

Recently on one of “Brats” discussion boards, someone mentioned that as a teen, this was her favorite book. Originally published in the 1970’s, the book has been rediscovered –and reprinted.

 “The Lion in the Lei Shop” by Kaye Starbird

This story is about Marty and her mother, April, who were evacuated from the ruins of Pearl Harbor. Marty, who feels abandoned after her Army officer father goes to war, is haunted by nightmares of the lion in the lei shop, a creature that’s said to eat happy children. This story shows how the bombing of Pearl Harbor must have seemed to the wives and children living on base and how they survived the war years.

All of these books can be borrowed from a public library or purchased through most booksellers.

The Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center has several hundred books written by, about, or for military family members. Many are first editions and some of them are rare or out of print. All of them are a glimpse into our unique culture. Much of our collection is featured on this blog: ateasebooks.wordpress.com

 

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