Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Un-American Girl

Feeling guilty about a review I posted on Amazon last week.

The book is From Baghdad to America and it is the sequel to From Baghdad, With Love and it's about a dog. Also the war in Iraq and the Marine who rescued the dog and moved with him to La Jolla.

(Hey, La Jolla readers, have you ever seen this guy at the park? Be careful, his dog has PTSD.)

As my review says, I really enjoyed the first one. The second one, not so much. Maybe my standards are too high, because I judged it against books written by writers, not written by Marines. (No offense to any members of my family who actually are Marines.) I'm not being snotty here...I don't think he's a great writer. Period. Reviews that rave about what a great writer he is, how clever, how expressive, etc., have an implied "for a Marine" after each of those sentiments.

I didn't think he was a good storyteller when I read the first book, but it was such a wonderful story, it didn't matter. Here, I think it does. As I said.

He's not a terrible writer or anything. He does express his feelings quite precisely. I'm just saying the book could have been better. But next to all those reviews about how life-changing and important this book is, I feel kind of like a jerk. Insensitive to the plight of combat veterans.

My review says I found it "ridiculous" that he thinks he doesn't have PTSD. What I really meant was "offensive," but I changed it.

Seriously, it offended me. It does a disservice to combat veterans, like him, who don't want to admit they have a problem. Case in point, this New York Times article. Except reading that article made me feel bad again, for dissing the book. Like I 'm shooting down a heartfelt effort to raise awareness. Which I don't mean to do -- my criticism is meant to suggest ways the story could be better told. How it could have moved hard-hearted Anti-Americans such as myself, instead of frustrating me to the point that I'm thinking, "Yeah, yeah, you saw a lot of people get blown up. I get it."

Tell me more about what it was like for the dog. You'll get through to me.

See, I was moderately affected by the aforementioned NY Times article about combat vets and alcoholism. Then I clicked through to this first-person column about a 50-year-old dude who had a heart attack. And got really choked up. Do I relate more to 50-year-old documentary producers than I do to combat veterans? Yeah, probably. Still, it says something about the power of a personal story versus sweeping generalizations.

In the journalism community, we call that "putting a face on it."

No comments: