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SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH

Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 10 years, 9 months ago

04 November 2007 SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH by Walter Dean Myers, Scholastic, May 2008, ISBN: 0439916240

 

"Armchair warriors often fail

And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales"

-- Don Henley, "The End of the Innocence"

 

"I wasn't exactly scared. My mouth was dry, the way it felt before a big game or an important test in high school. But I was going to be doing something I had never done before. I was going to be in a war."

 

Having previously written the definitive novel for adolescents on what it was like to be a young American in the middle of the Vietnam War, Walter Dean Myers has now written what will be the definitive novel for adolescents on what it is like to be a young American in the middle of the current Iraq War.

 

Having graduated high school In the wake of 9-11, Harlem teenager Robin Perry has decided to "stand up for [his] country" by enlisting. Thus, he finds himself in Kuwait, in a Civil Affairs unit, and he's arrived just in time for the beginning of the Iraq War

 

" 'Okay, rule six in the Rules of Engagement. Expect "Happy Shooting" from the local populace. This shooting is not hostile and should not be responded to as such.

" 'So if some guy's smiling and shooting in the air,' Jonesy said, 'it's okay. But then he lowers it a little bit and he's still smiling while he's lighting your ass up, you can shoot back?' " It depends,' Marla said. 'How big is his smile?' "

 

For those readers already familiar with Myers' book set in Vietnam, FALLEN ANGELS http://richiespicks.pbworks.com/FALLEN-ANGELS the first obvious difference between Twentieth century war in Vietnam and Twenty-first century war in Iraq is that, now, a significant portion of the American soldiers with guns are female. Another major difference between FALLEN ANGELS and SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH is that Robin's being part of a Civil Affairs unit -- that is simultaneously supposed to be winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqis while trying to survive the random attacks and setups -- brings quite vividly into the forefront of this story the absurdity and stupidity of the game plan that Bush and his subordinates "on the ground" have spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to implement politically and militarily in Iraq.

 

"In between the bombing coverage and the shots of ground targets being bracketed and then destroyed there were images of cheering Iraqis.

" 'They know why we're here,' Sergeant Harris said. 'They probably don't know what it means to be really free, but they can sense it, You know what I mean?'

" 'Then again,' Coles said, 'if they weren't cheering, would they be on television?' "

 

Many readers will not necessarily recognize all of the absurdity and dark humor here that sometimes made me recall the TV show MASH (particularly the running jokes about the current rules of engagement). Most readers will simply be sucked in by the high-action, straight-ahead war story of a dozen young American characters who, at any moment, may suddenly cease to exist or have their best friend or some random group of children on a street suddenly cease to exist.

 

"I felt pressed by a huge weight, like every bad minute you had ever had in your life had come back and was inside your chest and just sitting there. It was like having a huge vulture eat at your stomach and being too tired to do anything about it. I couldn't stop crying as we made our way back through the streets of Baghdad to the Green Zone.

" 'Stay alert!' Coles said.

" 'No.' I heard myself say the word. I wasn't sure if it was loud enough for anyone else to hear. I didn't want to be alert anymore. I didn't want to be a good soldier. I just wanted to shut down this whole damn war."

 

There actually is a plot connection between SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH and FALLEN ANGELS. Robin Perry periodically writes letters home to his Uncle Richie, who is Richie Perry, the main character in FALLEN ANGELS.

 

It so deeply sucks that Walter Dean Myers needed to write this book. But it sure as heck needed writing and Walter has written one hell of a story about the war that has cost America so dearly, and forever, in terms of precious resources, precious young people, prestige, and moral authority in the world arena.

 

Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com

Moderator, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/

BudNotBuddy@aol.com

http://www.myspace.com/richiespicks

 

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