Monday, March 10, 2014

Pure Grit - with Guest Blogger Mary Cronk Farrell

Fiction and Non-Fiction for Young People Take a Look at 
War Veteran’s Coming Home

Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific is a little-known true story about 79 women who were captured POW by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942.

The Japanese attack on American forces in the Philippines came shortly after the surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it caught the U.S. army and navy unprepared. Nurses rose to the occasion though they had not been trained in combat nursing. They helped set up field hospitals in the Bataan jungle and worked day and night trying to save the lives of American and Filipino soldiers.

When Americans were forced to surrender to the Japanese, the nurses were sent to internment camps where they remained captive for three years. They bravely faced the horrors of prison camp—disease, starvation and humiliation by their guards. Finally liberated near the end of WWII, they came home to a brief celebrity, and then were told to forget what had happened and not talk of it.

Many of the women suffered physical and emotional scars throughout their lives, while not receiving recognition for their sacrifice and service.

This book ties in with a number of excellent fictional titles which delve into more current situations of veterans arriving home from war and dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and family relationships.

The Impossible Knife of Memory is the story of teenager Hayley Kincaid and her Iraq vet father finally settling down after years of living from town to town as he struggled with PTSD. Maybe now Hayley will be able to go to high school and live a normal life, maybe even have a boyfriend. Author Laurie Halse Anderson, drew on her experience as the daughter of a war veteran to write her latest book. Click here for an interview with her about how personal this book is for Halse Anderson.

The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt and Something like Normal by Trish Doller are both novels about young men who go off to war directly after high school graduation. The stories begin when the young men come home, and take a keen look at the difficulty of family relationships because members can’t truly understand the veteran experience.

In Reinhardt’s story, seventeen-year-old Levi follows his older brother Boaz, an ex-Marine, on a walking trip from Boston to Washington, D.C. in hopes of learning why Boaz is completely withdrawn. Doller writes about soldier Travis home on leave from Afghanistan and desperately trying to cope with PTSD after seeing his best friend die. 

Students might compare and contrast how the women of WWII and the male soldiers who fought in the Middle East and Afghanistan felt about participating in a war? Perhaps they can identify evidence from the text to support their conclusions.

Students could look at similarities and differences between veterans’ experiences coming home after WWII and, now after Iraq and Afghanistan. Teachers can engage them in collaborative discussions about these topics as well as issues such as, what it’s like for young people when a parent returns home from active military service, what responsibilities a country has toward its returning warriors, and what lessons it is possible to learn from history.

Thanks, Mary, for stepping in as guest blogger today. I know teachers will appreciate your insight and include these stories in their classroom. 

I'd love to your inspiration for Pure Grit.  Can you tell us about that? soon as I heard about American woman POWs in WWII, I had to discover more about them. The more I discovered, I knew I had to do the story. For me there was never any question. The women are so inspiring, I wanted to tell everyone about them.

I'm so glad you did!  Their stories are so important to history.  What's next for your readers?

My next book is a biography of Labor Leader Fannie Sellins who was shot to death on the picket line in 1919. Another example of a courageous and compassionate women in history we have heard too little about.

 Sounds like another compelling read!  Find out more about Mary and her books on her website