I have always loved reading books. As a child, I was a bookworm and spent much of our family vacations in the car reading as we drove across Europe and the Middle East. My dad jokes that I saw all the great sites of the world with my nose in a Nancy Drew book.
I suppose now as an adult, I wish that I had taken a little bit more time to pay attention to my surroundings, instead of trying to figure out what Nancy was doing at Shadow Ranch.
As a preteen, one of my jobs was to do the dishes. I wasn’t very good at it, and it was probably very exasperating to my parents because I’d prop a book up on the sink and wash each dish while reading one of my beloved novels. My mom used to say if I just put the book down, I’d get the dishes done in no time, and have more time for reading. I finally learned that lesson! I still don’t like doing dishes but remain an avid reader.
That’s why when I designed our new exhibit, “Together We Serve: the Modern Military Spouse,” books played a huge role in its development.
After a friend and I wrote the educational text for the panels, I reached out to the military spouse author communities to ask for excerpts from their books to highlight the text. In all, 41 military spouse authors and bloggers contributed their thoughts to the exhibit.
Their books—fiction, nonfiction, poetry and self-help—perfectly illustrate the topics our exhibit covers.
Reading the authors’ excerpts, I found myself wanting to read every book. Some, we have in our museum library; others we need to purchase. This summer, we’re going to develop a book club using some of the books.
As we enter the summer reading season, I’d like to share a couple of titles with you in case you’re looking for something good to read while on vacation. These books are featured in “Together We Serve” or were created by our writer-in-resident, Paul Zolbrod.
Siobhan Fallon, “The Confusion of Languages” (JP Putnam’s Sons, 2017). Two wives follow their soldier husbands to Jordan. Set within the U.S. expat community of the Middle East during the rise of the Arab Spring, this novel explores jealousy, friendship, and secrets.
Siobhan Fallon, “You Know When the Men Are Gone” (Amy Einhorn Books, 2011). These short stories are set in Fort Hood, Texas. Meet a wide cast of characters who deal with deployment and war very differently, while trying to hold their families together as the stress of war threatens to pull them apart.
Andria Williams, “The Longest Night” (Random House, 2016). Based on a true story of the only fatal nuclear accident to occur in America, this novel is about a young couple whose marriage is tested when they move to a military installation rife with love triangles, life-or-death conflicts, and a dramatic cover-up.
“Stories Around the Table: Laughter, Wisdom and Strength in Military Life” (Elva Resa Publishing, 2014). Military spouses, parents, children and service members share personal stories from their military life experience, which range from poignant to practical, tragic to humorous, and cover the many aspects of military life: the good and bad, and everything in between.
Abby Murray, “How to be Married after Iraq” (Finishing Line press, 2018). This series of honest and heartfelt poems examines war and its aftermath—love, fear, pressure and tension—from the military spouse’s perspective.
Jehanne Dubrow, “Stateside” (Northwestern University Press, 2010). These poems examine a military husband’s deployment and a spouse contemplating her own life and the far-reaching effects of war.
Lisa Stice, “Uniform”(Aldrich Press, 2016). This collection of poems shares the experience of a military spouse who watches war with a myriad of emotions from the perspective of someone not quite sure of the culture she finds herself in—and finding that war extends all the way from “over there” to right at home.
Paul Zolbrod, “Battle Songs” (Museum of the American Military Family Press, via Lulu.com, 2017). Four young men are drafted in the early 1950’s to join a struggle they do not understand in country they know nothing about. Told from four different perspectives, this novel contrasts the horrors of the battlefield with accounts of mid twentieth-century life in America.
Paul Zolbrod, Allen Dale Olson, “From the Frontlines to the Home Front: New Mexicans Reflect on War” (Museum of the American Military Family Press, via lulu.com, 2016). Military service is a family affair as the stories and poems testify. Written by New Mexican veterans and family members, each reflection portrays an understanding of what it means to contribute to military life by those not in uniform as well as those who are.
Circe Olson Woessner founded the Museum of the American Military Family, located at 546B N.M. 333 in Tijeras, right next to Molly’s Bar. She can be reached at email@example.com. To learn more about the museum, call 505-504-6830 or visit militaryfamilymuseum.org.