Ten years ago today, on July 31, 2004, during the most difficult part of my time in the war in Afghanistan, my soul and sanity was saved by the power of a book.
My fellow soldiers and I had been living in a rented Afghan house made of mudbrick. This house was built for an Afghan family, not for nearly 40 soldiers with their weapons and equipment. Conditions there were extremely hot and very difficult, and the Taliban sent death threats every day.
My notebook for July 31, 2004 records:
A half hour left in July, but she did not go gently into the night. She went out kicking and screaming.
I hated every day of you…
We got clobbered with unloading three damned jingle trucks today while we were trying to sleep off our overnight guard shift.
One of the trucks had mail and real meat! But the Afghan truck driver claimed nobody told him to hook up the refrigeration unit. So we all knew the smell of rotting flesh in a combat zone. When the doors on the truck opened it hit us hard! Cookmaster went into the hot conex and almost puked.
But one of the great things that came in the truck was the mail and a young adult novel by Katherine Paterson called Bridge to Terabithia.
It unquestionably earns 5 stars! The memory of my younger self absolutely fell in love with Leslie Burke, just like the protagonist Jesse Aaron does…I can’t stop thinking about the book or about poor Leslie, who [spoiler] near the end.
Driving through Farah City, Afghanistan with a loaded M16 sticking out the window, all I could think about was Leslie Burke in Bridge to Terabithia.
Even today, ten years later, if I allow myself to think about those brutal times, and my mind drifts back there, I have difficulty maintaining my emotions. In those days, life had been reduced to merely holding on, to trying to get through the hour, through the day. My world was only missions, guard duty, and weapons maintenance.
BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA reminded me that it is not enough to simply exist. People need more than merely consuming enough food and water to survive. Human souls need art and literature and beauty. Katherine Paterson’s book brought me that at a time when I did not know if I would even survive. I will never forget that lesson, and I live my life dedicated to writing, reading, and celebrating books. They are our best hope.
"A racially charged shooting reveals the complicated relationships that surround a popular teen and the neighborhood that nurtured and challenged him…
Magoon skillfully tells the story in multiple, sometimes conflicting, voices.
This sobering yet satisfying novel leaves readers to ponder the complex questions it raises.”
This is definitely one to pre-order!
This book is going to be a game changer, because it isn’t a game and it must change.
If You’re Reading This is the story of a 16 year old guy who begins receiving letters in the mail that his father wrote to him seven years earlier before the father died in the war in Afghanistan. The father was a combat engineer in the 34th Infantry Division, so the publisher obtained permission to place the 34th ID Red Bull insignia on the back of the book. Then…
They stamped the father’s dog tags, which are admittedly hard to see in this photograph, complete with social security number and blood type into the front of the book under the dust jacket.
Book designers are true artists.