In From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava
, Jay Kopelman tells a story that is both tender and thought-provoking--candidly portraying the ugly conditions in wartime Iraq, while also describing his (and his fellow Marines') growing attachment to a scruffy stray puppy.
Here Jay Kopelman answers a few questions about his aspirations as a writer, and the effect his book has had on readers.
Questions for Jay Kopelman
Amazon.com: Before you met Lava and had this experience smuggling him out of Iraq, did you ever have ambitions to write a book?
Jay Kopelman: Yes, I'd considered writing a book previously and have started--but not finished--a novel. Not surprisingly, it's a military murder mystery. And I'm still hoping to get it published. I've also been offered a deal by my publisher to write another book. So I guess I'm now officially an author.
Amazon.com: How has the military responded to it given that you broke a number of rules during your adventure with Lava?
Jay Kopelman: I've actually not had any real feedback from the military establishment. In fact, mostly I only get the good-natured ribbing from my contemporaries about how much money I'll make or about who will play me in the movie. When the story first broke a year and a half ago, one of the generals jokingly asked me for an autograph, and I've given the previous commanding general for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force a signed galley. So, thus far, theres been nothing "official" to which I've had to respond. We'll see what happens now that the book is released and there's going to be a media blitz surrounding the book. What you have to remember, though, is that I really didn't use military assets to get Lava home. Nor did I ever endanger anyone in the military while doing so.
Amazon.com: In the book, you say that you would like it if it can bring hope to people who've lost loved ones in Iraq by showing them how something positive can come out of a brutal situation. Have you heard from people that your book has made them feel better?
Jay Kopelman: I've not yet heard from anyone whos lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan, but I have heard from a counselor who works with the returning Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, who said she finds the story so very positive and helpful. She's planning to come to the book signing there. I also got an e-mail from a Marine who said that while her unit was in Iraq, they adopted a puppy and tried to bring it home, but he was ultimately put down. She says that the Marines "remember how Charlie the dog helped us. Charlie will always be loved. During a time when we were far from home that dog made us smile." So, I suppose Lava's story does help people remember and gives them hope. Ive also heard from people who appreciate my candor describing the conditions in Iraq.
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From Publishers Weekly
The news from Iraq keeps getting grimmer, but Iraq veteran Kopelman and journalist Roth (The Man Who Talks to Dogs
) tell a tale of radiant joy about Kopelman's efforts to safely transport Lava, the stray dog his Marine unit found in the wreckage of Fallujah, back to the U.S. Though the premise sounds cloying, Kopelman and Roth eschew sentimentality. They don't hesitate to detail the corruption of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the U.S. military bureaucracy or the extreme hardships of the Iraqi people. Kopelman's nagging qualms about keeping the dog in violation of military orders throw into relief his efforts to repress his guilt over working so hard to save a dog amid so much human suffering. Most bracing are the frank descriptions of the war's moral vacuum, where terrified men and women—like the dogs that Iraqi insurgents strap with bombs and send charging into the enemy—are driven to commit unspeakable acts they cannot possibly understand. The story of Lava's journey out of Iraq is exciting, but it's to Kopelman and Roth's credit that it's not nearly as harrowing as the story of what the dog left behind. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Oct.)
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