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Band of Sisters: American Women at War in Iraq Paperback – August 25, 2008
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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About the Author
Kirsten Holmstedt is a graduate of Drake University’s School of Journalism and the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s master of fine arts program. She has been writer-in-residence at the College of William and Mary and currently teaches writing at a community college. Her previous books are the highly acclaimed Band of Sisters and The Girls Come Marching Home. She has appeared on PBS, the BBC, and C-SPAN, among other TV and radio programs. As an expert on and advocate for female service members, she has testified before Congress and spoken to countless businesses and colleges around the country. She lives in Connecticut.
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I agree with other reviewers regarding the poor writing. Yes I am complaining bitterly because it's a pain to read. Are editors in short supply? The most talented authors still have editors. In spite of that it's still worth reading if you can get past the clumsy and immature writing. As I read I thought I had a young adult book and wondered if this was aimed at youngsters to encourage more women to volunteer.
When I volunteered for the service the recruiter openly laughed at me when I asked if I'd ever be able to serve on board ship. He dismissively told me there are no women (on board ship) in this man's navy and never will be. But within a few years of my discharge women had started serving on board some ships. I was encouraged to read in this book that ships are now being built to "accommodate" women crew members. Knowing what I know, that means leaving out the urinals, nothing more.
I also agree with one reviewer who acknowledged that some of the poor quality of presentation by the author may be attributed to the writers lack of personal experience in the military. It's a very intense experience that changes you, hopefully for the better. I don't chat about my military experience with non veterans. Being a woman, most people over the years never guess that I am a veteran.
It's not too late for more editing and reissue of this book.
The author lives close to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, so she had access to a lot of Marines. Some that she interviewed were wives and mothers who made the difficult decision to leave family behind and go to war. One of the nurses grew up in a family of migrant workers, moving all over the country, but she won several awards for her work in Iraq. She doesn't even remember the names of the awards or what they were for because they were of little importance to her compared to her own personal mission of helping the wounded with care and compassion.
What I enjoyed most about this book was reading about how the women were accepted by their male counterparts and the camaraderie that grew among them. Sometimes the women were able to sit down with a male soldier or Marine and talk about their children and reassure the man about a sick child at home, because the man had things blown out of proportion from fear and worrying. They all helped each other, and it was a pleasure to read about how well things went when they were all on the same team and working together for a common goal. It is also good to know that there was a lot of respect going both ways for commanders in these interviews and stories of women in war. The women respected their male commanders and the men respected the female commanders and trusted them.
The days have passed when women in the military either did nursing or a desk job. Making it legal for women to serve in combat is being discussed presently, but for many of them, they have already been there.
Everyone should enjoy this book and it's a book that everyone should read. It brings the reality of war a little closer as seen through the eyes of women in the military, and tells us how they cope and what their strategies are for when they think they can't.
Seriously, this is a great book. Just like the author, who didn't have a clue of what it's like, we will all benefit from knowing how the US women soldiers braved it out in the battlefield, both as support personnel, and front liners (but as they say, "in Iraq, there are no front lines").
Difficult as it may seem, many of these women are actually mothers, who left behind very young children. They had a duty to fulfill, and they stood up for it; they didn't back down. As they said, they were soldiers first, before they were mothers. One of them didn't want her children to be fighting the same battle ten or fifteen years down the line, so she fought it for them.
Recognition and distinction are the last things in these women's minds during and even after their time in service. They only knew to serve. But they deserve recognition, they deserve distinction. Sure, most of them were awarded medals and ribbons. But with the words of their stories in printed form, this book gives to them what I believe they truly deserve - that the world comes to know about these modern day heroes.