They say history is written by the victors, but most of us know that everyone loses something in a war. And those people who actually lose land or control over their lives or are drafted into a new way of life – they have stories too. You have only to read I Am Malala by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai, or Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank to get a firsthand look at how war changes young lives.
When I researched my novel, Bull Rider, which is about how ranch kid Cam O’Mara’s life is turned upside down when his brother, Ben, returns from Iraq with a traumatic brain injury and amputated arm, my own perceptions were changed. This is perhaps, the best kind of growth an author can hope for. It’s not easy, but having your own view of the world broadened is a good thing. Hopefully it makes the book fresh and honest. One of the things I discovered, was that although I assumed Ben would be angry about his injuries and probably mad at the Marines, when I interviewed people who worked with injured veterans they all said the same thing. Most of the service men and women wanted to get well and go back to their jobs, back to their buddies. The truth in that changed my book. Still there are few “winners” in war, and the O’Mara family sacrificed much. I was honored to write their story, and hope my fictional characters reflect some truth.
Here are some of my favorite books that offer a different view of war:
· Linda Sue Park’s When My Name Was Keoko gives a Korean girl’s account of that country under Japanese occupation in World War, II.
· Under the Blood Red Sun by Graham Salisbury shows the attack on Pearl Harbor and its aftermath from the perspective of a Japanese American family living in Hawaii.
· Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis to learn about the little known stories of African American women serving in World War II.
· Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate follows a Samali boy, a refugee from the war in that country, as he tries to adjust to his new life in Minnesota.
Wars produce a lot of stories. Most of them aren’t about the winners or the losers, but about the people whose lives are changed forever.