By Lorraine Boissoneault
With Memorial Day right around the corner, it seems fitting that we fill our reading list with books penned by veterans, families, and foreigners affected by the War on Terror. Published within the last five years, these books offer nuanced portraits of the people who sacrifice safety, security, and even their lives in ongoing conflicts. Check them out at your local bookstore or library, and share them with family over the holiday weekend.
You Know When the Men Are Gone, Siobhan Fallon
This short story collection written by a military wife follows the people of Fort Hood, Texas, an army base where soldiers prepare to fight and the families are left behind when the men are gone. The New York Journal of Books says of it, “The explosive sort of literary triumph that appears only every few years. As such, it should not be missed.”
Green on Blue, Elliot Ackerman
Brothers Aziz and Ali have grown up in a village in eastern Afghanistan, their family poor but filled with love. But when U.S. forces invade the country, Ali is grievously injured. Aziz must join a U.S.-funded militia if he wants to save his brother, but the violence on all sides forces Aziz to find his place in a landscape of moral ambiguity. Described by Khaled Hosseini as “harrowing, brutal, and utterly absorbing.”
The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq, Hassan Blasim, Jonathan Wright (translator)
Blending realism with flights of fantasy, this story collection is the first major literary work about the Iraq War from an Iraqi perspective. The stories are peopled with soldiers, hostages, assassins, refugees, terrorists, prophets, angels, djinni, and spirits. The collection was named one of Publisher Weekly‘s 10 Best Books of the Year in 2014, and won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
Young Blood, Matt Gallagher
A former US Army captain, Matt Gallagher delves into the life of lieutenant Jack Porter, who struggles to accept how the U.S. military is preparing to withdraw from Iraq. When veteran Sergeant Daniel Chambers arrives and threatens to undermine the fragile peace the soldiers have established, Jack will defy American command and put his own future in peril. Named a “Most Anticipated” book of 2016 by The Millions.
Fives and Twenty-Fives, Michael Pitre
Marine-turned-novelist Michael Pitre follows an American road repair and bomb disposal team as they travel through Iraq. The platoon works to assure safe passage for citizens and military personnel, and while their mission lacks the glory of the infantry, it’s still rife with danger. Selected as an “Amazon Best Book of the Month” in September 2014.