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Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point Paperback – September 30, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Azar Nafisi meets David Lipsky in this memoir/meditation on crossing the border between the civilian world of literature and the world of the military during 10 years of teaching English at West Point. Samet's students sometimes respond to literature in ways that trouble her, but she lauds their intellectual courage as they negotiate the multiple contradictions of military life. Considering the link between literature and war, Samet insightfully explores how Vietnam fiction changed American literary discourse about the heroism of military service. Beyond books, Samet also examines how televised accounts of the Iraq War have turned American civilians into war's insulated voyeurs, and discusses the gap separating her from the rest of the audience watching a documentary on Iraq. Lighter, gently humorous sections reveal Samet's feelings about army argot. She has been known to ask her mother to meet her at 1800 instead of at 6:00 p.m., but she forbids the use of the exclamation Hooah!(an affirmative expression of the warrior spirit) in her classroom. Samet is prone to digressions that break the flow of great stories, like an account of her West Point job interview. But this meditation on war, teaching and literature is sympathetic, shrewd and sometimes profound. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
"Whats the difference, maam? Ill be in Iraq within a year anyway," contends a cadet in Elizabeth Samets English class. Soldiers Heart responds by making a graceful, compelling case that reading forces her students to slow down and reflect on such timeless themes as courage, honor, and sacrifice, which results in better, more thoughtful soldiers. Part memoir, the book also examines her teaching career and shares her opinions of religion in the military and the war in Iraq. It is her sketches of students and colleagues that stand out, however, as she challenges stereotypes and provides a moving tribute to these proud, admirable men and women. By demonstrating that reading has an important place in the military, she makes a strong case for its value in civilian life as well.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
She is able to accomplish several things here. She provides a vivid sense of the WP ethos, along with the `newer' ethos which includes women cadets, civilian professors, majors, minors, and a rich array of electives. She provides sketches and portraits of a number of her students and a number of her military colleagues. She reports on their communications with her as they move on in their careers, to and from war zones and, for some, to civilian life. The book is a mini-memoir and mini-autobiography. Most of all it is a long reflection on the relationship between literature and life, literature and the military, literature and war.
What is most impressive about the book is the fact that it is so accessible. Its materials are complex but they are presented in a manner that is instructive, moving and compelling. This is a book for everyone interested in literature, for everyone interested in soldiers and for everyone interested in West Point. I recommend it highly.
Without wishing to go into too much detail, the episode that I will never forget is the one where a cadet's hat was taken by another cadet by mistake. A cadet who goes outside without a hat would be out of uniform and get demerits. An upper classman suggested that the young man take the one hat remaining on the hat rack even though it wasn't his. The younger cadet declined since the hat wasn't his. This is, to my way of thinking, a powerful look at the military concept of honor.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in our military.
I bought the book for a young friend who is a Marine deployed overseas. I had read it several years ago and enjoyed rereading it-- especially the chapter on courage. When our soldiers are going through stressful times, and we are suffering more suicides than combat losses, it is time for the military to rethink what we teach our troops. Every soldier should be required to read Dr. Samet's book and come up with her own definition of courage before she is subjected to combat and the scars it can leave on our troops.
Poetry and good literature can help. Dr. Samit makes a good start with her book.