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Review: Courageous Women of the Vietnam War: Medics, Journalists, Survivors, and More

Vietnam is like a huge jigsaw puzzle where none of the pieces fit.

~ Ba Rose: My Years in Vietnam, 1968 – 1971

Courageous Women of the Vietnam War: Medics, Journalists, Survivors, and More*

From the publisher:

One of just a handful of women reporting on the Vietnam War, Kate Webb was captured by North Vietnamese troops and presumed dead—until she emerged from the jungle waving a piece of white parachute material after 23 days in captivity. Le Ly Hayslip enjoyed a peaceful early childhood in a Vietnamese farming village before war changed her life forever. Brutalized by all sides, she escaped to the United States, where she eventually founded two humanitarian organizations. Lynda Van Devanter was an idealistic young nurse in 1969 when a plane carrying her and 350 men landed in South Vietnam. Her harrowing experiences working in a combat zone hospital would later serve as inspiration for the TV series China Beach.

In these pages readers meet these and other brave women and girls who served in life-threatening roles as medics, journalists, resisters, and revolutionaries in the conflict in Vietnam. Author Kathryn J. Atwood presents a clear introduction to each of five chronological sections, guiding readers through the social and political turmoil that spanned two decades and the tenure of five US presidents. Each woman’s story unfolds in a suspenseful, engaging way, incorporating plentiful original source materials, quotes, and photographs. Resources for further study, source notes and a bibliography, and a helpful map and glossary round out this exploration of one of modern history’s most divisive wars, making it an invaluable addition to any student’s or history buff’s bookshelf.

This book by Kathryn Atwood is part of the Women of Action series from Chicago Review Press.

Although I was very young at the time, I remember the Vietnam war. But I have a child’s memory of that war. We never learned about it in school because it wasn’t quite history yet. Certainly, we knew all about it, right?

Well, perhaps. Perhaps not. As I said, my view of it is filtered, just as my view of Desert Storm will always be filtered through the lens of riding in an M577 tracked vehicle, a pair of headphones on my head, as we bounced up and over the berm between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. What was everyone else doing? I have no idea.

I may never fill in those gaps, but I was amazed at how much I learned about the Vietnam war. One of the things I appreciated about this book was how it was organized into five parts. Each part covered significant events taking place during those years with corresponding stories:

  • Part 1 1945-1956: Ho Chi Minh’s Revolution
    Women’s stories: Xuan Phuong and Geneviève de Galard
  • Part II 1957-1964: Ngo Dinh Diem’s Civil War
    Women’s Stories: Le Ly Hayslip and Bobbi Hovis
  • Part III 1965-1968: Lyndon B. Johnson’s American War
    Women’s stories: Kay Wilhelmy Bauer, Jurate Kazickas, and Iris Mary Roser
  • Part IV 1969-1970: Richard M. Nixon’s “Peace”
    Women’s stories: Anne Koch, Dang Thuy Tram, and Lynda Van Devanter
  • Part V 1971-1975: Endings and Beginnings
    Women’s stories: Kate Webb, Joan Baez, Tracy Wood, and Kim Phuc

Reading the history in parts, followed by each woman’s story, allowed me to really get a sense for not only the big picture but how these big events impacted the lives of everyday women, from all walks of life and all sides of the conflict.

The prose is, as always with Kathryn’s books, accessible and a pleasure to read. Technically this is a young adult nonfiction book, but it’s such a great resource for anyone: writer, student, teacher, homeschooler, historian. Like other books in the series, this one includes extensive notes, bibliography, and one of my favorite features: the Learn More section at the end of each woman’s story.

You can purchase the book at many online retailers or directly from the publisher.

* I received a review copy of this book from Chicago Review Press.

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Review: Women Heroes of World War II—the Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival

War can teach you so much about evil, and so much about good.
~ Zainab Salbi

Women Heroes of World War II—the Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival*

From the publisher:

Glamorous American singer Claire Phillips opened a nightclub in manila, using the earnings to secretly feed starving American POWs. She also began working as a spy, chatting up Japanese military men and passing their secrets along to local guerrilla resistance fighters. Australian Army nurse Vivian Bullwinkel, stationed in Singapore, then shipwrecked in the Dutch East Indies, became the sole survivor of a horrible massacre by Japanese soliders. She hid for days, tending to a seriously wounded British soldier while wounded herself. Humanitarian Elizabeth Choy lived the rest of her life hating war, though not her tormentors, after enduring six months of starvation and torture by the Japanese military police.

In these pages, readers will meet these and other courageous women and girls who risked their lives through their involvement in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. Fifteen suspense-filled stories unfold across China, Japan, Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines, providing an inspiring reminder of womens’ and girls’ refusal to sit on the sidelines around the world and throughout history.

These women—whose stories span 1932 to 1945, the last year of the war—served in dangerous roles as spies, medics, journalists, resisters, and saboteurs. Seven of them were captured and imprisoned by the Japanese, enduring brutal conditions. Author Kathryn J. Atwood provides appropriate context and framing for teens 14 and up to grapple with these harsh realities of war. Discussion questions and a guide for further study assist readers and educators in learning about this important and often neglected period of history.

womenheroeswwiipacThis is the third Women Heroes book by Kathryn Atwood and part of the Women of Action series from Chicago Review Press.

To say I liked this book the best isn’t accurate. I enjoyed the first two immensely. I read a lot of World War I and World War II nonfiction. I majored in Russian in college, and along with that came a lot of Russian literature and history. So I was already familiar with a lot of the women presented in the first two books.

Ah, but this one? I’m a bit chagrined to admit it. This was fairly new territory for me. I haven’t done nearly as much reading about the Pacific theater as I have the European one. That’s about to change.

As with the other books, this one starts off with a chapter about how the war with Japan begun and provides a short, but excellent, historical overview. The volume ends with a wrap up that explains how the war ended and the consequences that followed (the Cold War).

In between? Fifteen riveting stories about women in the Pacific theater, from Australian nurses to Navy flight nurses to war photographers and citizens fighting for their countries. Each chapter highlights a woman hero and invites us to understand her struggle. Each chapter ends with a bibliography for further reading.

All the stories in this book are incredible, but I was struck in particular by the courage of the Philippine resistance.

This book along with the two others in the series make excellent resources for not only students, but teachers, writers, or anyone who wants to know more about the world wars but doesn’t know where to start.

Heroism is endurance for one moment more.
~ George F. Kennan

* I received a review copy of this book from Chicago Review Press.

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So … you want to read a bit about World War I?

So, I scanned my LibraryThing collection to see what I have read about World War I. It’s an eclectic mix. I did a fair amount of reading about World War I for the War Through the Generations challenge a few years back, and I’ve continued to read as books capture my interest.

Below are five of the nonfiction titles that I really enjoyed and recommend.

historyWWIhourWorld War One: History in an Hour (my short review here)

The title says it all. World War I, in about an hour, so you’re not getting a lot of detail.

But it’s a good starter book if you’re dipping your toes back into the events of this time.

 

toendTo End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 (my review here) by Adam Hochschild

This was one of my favorites from the World War I reading challenge. The author uses one of my favorite techniques for presenting history: providing an overview and then showing us the individual lives of the pairs he follows in the narrative. This makes for both effective and riveting reading.

WWIwomenheroesWomen Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics

Yes, I just reviewed this one, which you can read here. I won’t say a whole lot about it, except that I highly recommend it.

 

ArabiaLawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson.

What Hochschild does for the Western front, Anderson does in the Middle East. Want to understand what happened during WWI in the Middle East? Want to understand what the heck is going on there today? This is your book. Anderson employs a similar style as Hochschild by following four principal figures (T.E. Lawrence among them, naturally) through the war years in the Middle East. Again, highly recommended.

RussiaThe Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming.

A few years back, my son was fascinated by the end of the Romanov dynasty, the Russian Revolution, and in particular, if any of the Romanov children survived. I wish this book existed back then. This is young adult nonfiction, but it’s so engaging and informative, I recommend it to anyone who’d like to know more about the above.

For those in the crowd who have read extensively about the revolution and the Romanovs, you probably won’t pick up anything new. However, if you’re like me, and can read about these events over and over (and over) again, then I think you may enjoy this book as well. I know I did. Actually, it reminded me of all the topics I wanted to read more about that had simply slipped off my mental to-be-researched list.

There you go. Five books for the WWI centennial.

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Weekly writing check-in: the one with an Eagle Scout

EagleWell, it’s official, hardware and all. My son is now an Eagle Scout. He worked so hard for this, and the process had its ups and downs, to be sure. We’ll probably have a court of honor in a few months or so. But for now, we simply gaze upon the medal and pins–and that’s enough.

In other news, I managed about 3,000 words on the coffee ghost story. I worked through all the audio files for The Fine Art of Keeping Quiet. The Maze is done, and according to my dashboard, headed for retail (!).

Also, I wrote up a book review this week (see link below). And I may do another post in a bit to recap all the WWI books I’ve read in the past few years.

Writing Work:

Submissions:

  • Like Bread Loves Salt

Rejections:

  • Like Bread Loves Salt

Acceptances:

  • None

Publications:

  • None

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Review: Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics

Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics

By Kathryn J. Atwood
Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Summary from the publisher: 

WWIwomenheroesA commemoration of brave yet largely forgotten women who served in the First World War

In time for the 2014 centennial of the start of the Great War, this book brings to life the brave and often surprising exploits of 16 fascinating women from around the world who served their countries at a time when most of them didn’t even have the right to vote.

Readers meet 17-year-old Frenchwoman Emilienne Moreau, who assisted the Allies as a guide and set up a first-aid post in her home to attend to the wounded;

Russian peasant Maria Bochkareva, who joined the Imperial Russian Army by securing the personal permission of Tsar Nicholas II, was twice wounded in battle and decorated for bravery, and created and led the all-women combat unit the “Women’s Battalion of Death” on the eastern front; and American journalist Madeleine Zabriskie Doty, who risked her life to travel twice to Germany during the war in order to report back the truth, whatever the cost.

These and other suspense-filled stories of brave girls and women are told through the use of engaging narrative, dialogue, direct quotes, and document and diary excerpts to lend authenticity and immediacy.

Introductory material opens each section to provide solid historical context, and each profile includes informative sidebars and “Learn More” lists of relevant books and websites, making this a fabulous resource for students, teachers, parents, libraries, and homeschoolers.

Back in 2011, I read and reviewed Women Heroes of World War II: 26 stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance. A few months ago, the publisher contacted me and offered a copy of Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics. My only regret in saying yes is it’s taken me so long to post my review of this terrific book.

Like its counterpart, this book contains several true stories, all centering around women during World War I in the European theater. Its structure is similar. The book begins with an overview of the war and how it began. For the seasoned history buff, you won’t find anything new. However, the overview is easy to follow and will help anyone not familiar with why World War I started.

Also scattered throughout the women’s stories are sidebars of extra information that help put the stories and the era into perspective. World War I really represents the crumbling of an old era into our modern one. Sometimes that’s difficult for younger readers to understand (witness the outrage when my daughter learned how long it took for women to get the vote). One thing I appreciated about this book was how varied the women’s stories were. There were a few I was unfamiliar with, and I’ve done a fair amount of reading about WWI.

As with the WWII volume, each woman only gets a few pages, but like the first book, there’s an extensive bibliography and lists of resources for the budding historian. This book is a great starting place for your history report or possibly that historical fiction story you’ve been planning to write. (You have been planning to write one, haven’t you?)

These two books are part of the Women of Action series from Chicago Review Press, which I plan on reading through during the next several months. If you’re looking for accessible and meaty nonfiction about women’s involvement in World War I, I highly recommend this book.

Thanks to Chicago Review Press for providing a review copy of this book.

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2012 Reading Challenge wrap up

WWIchallenge

So last night I finished my last book for the War Through the Generations 2012 WWI reading challenge.

I read seven books in all, which is the most I’ve read for this challenge since I started doing it. I signed up for the “wade” level of 4 – 10 books, so I accomplished that quite comfortably. And I still have more WWI books I want to read. Even so, I plan to sign up for the 2013 challenge: The American Revolution.

It’s perfect timing since this spring, Kyra’s class does a huge unit on the American Revolution and we plan to do the reading challenge together.

To sum up 2012, here’s a quick overview (with links to some reviews) of the books I read:

To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild (review here)

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Fantastic middle grade novel that should appeal to adults as well. One of my favorite constructs–the story within a story. This one is on audio as well and would make a good summer road trip book.

The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

I discovered this one thanks to a Facebook post. Yes! Facebook! Good for something.

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

WWI mystery. If you like the Maisie Dobbs series, this is a good choice for historical/WWI mysteries.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The Countess of Carnarvon (review here)

Not really connected to Downton Abbey, but still interesting.

World War One: History in an Hour by Rupert Colley (review here)

This book is exactly what it claims to be: a concise overview of World War I that you can read in an hour or so.

Not So Quiet … Stepdaughters of War by Helen Zenna Smith

Interesting if ultimately tragic (what else could it be) story about female ambulance drivers on the Western Front in WWI. Helen Zenna Smith is a pseudonym for Evadne Price, who had an interesting and varied writing career. Read more about her on here on Wikipedia.

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World War One: History in an Hour ~ a short review for a short book

Book #6 for the War Through the Generations WWI reading challenge, which means I have thoroughly “waded” into the challenge–and feeling quite proud of myself.

World War One: History in an Hour is exactly what it claims to be: a concise overview of World War I that you can read in an hour (or so–I spent about an hour and a half reading). It is also a better book to read at the start of a WWI reading challenge, not closer to its end.

That being said, it’s a great place to start if you don’t have a passing familiarity with WWI, or haven’t done any serious reading on the topic since 11th grade world history. The narrative style is engaging, and the book itself is broken into sections, which makes it easy to set down and pick back up again. The author doesn’t go into any great depth, but again, that’s not this book’s purpose.

The book also includes short biographies of some of the major players in the war along with a timeline.

So, if you’re looking for an introduction, or need a quick read to round out this year’s challenge, you can’t go wrong with this one, especially if it continues to be free on Kindle.

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