From Publishers Weekly
In this tautly argued study of the link between war-induced post-traumatic stress and suicide, Coleman writes, "It is only recently that I have begun to think of myself as a Vietnam War widow." Coleman's first husband, a fellow photographer and Vietnam veteran, killed himself. "He was hurt in ways I couldn't fix," the author writes, solemnly reflecting on the years she spent blaming him, and then herself. Coleman (Village Elders
) expresses dismay at the inadequacies of her generation's and the military's attitude toward its traumatized men. Gathering stark personal testimonies from other similarly bereaved wives, mothers and daughters, she chillingly reveals the hidden cost of war. Further, with force and conviction, she shows how the U.S. military has systematically denied and cynically managed the psychic impact of war on its soldiers, from early experiments with postwar rehabilitation to frontal lobotomies. She profiles psychiatrists, setting their research and innovations in the necessarily limiting context of the military's goals. With searing insights, Coleman also discusses the social engineering involved in the Vietnam era draft and its notions, both implicit and explicit, of "disposable" men. This passionately felt book poses more questions than it can answer, but it will surely generate further attention to a sadly timely subject. (May)
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*Starred Review* Coleman was once married to a Vietnam veteran who committed suicide rather than live with his horrific war memories, and she asserts that the military hasn't learned the most important lesson of all the last century's wars, that the chance of becoming a psychiatric casualty, of killing oneself due to untreated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is greater than that of death by enemy fire. Some contend that there have been more Vietnam vet suicides than there are names on The Wall. The risk seems even higher for those serving in Iraq, where the army reports a suicide rate three times greater than normal within its ranks. How does Coleman know the lesson she points out hasn't been learned? For starters, the aforementioned army reporting doesn't associate the suicides with combat but instead blames "underdeveloped life coping skills." Further, Coleman cites many reports and experts substantiating that the military downplays the psychic toll of modern combat and routinely denies veterans' requests for psychiatric medical intervention. Punctuating this alarming presentation is a heavily researched history of what was once called shell shock and the tragic, in-their-own-words stories of 12 women, each of whom is a surviving relative of a Vietnam veteran who committed suicide. Donna ChavezCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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