This is the third year for Caroline's Literature and War Readalong. I've been reading along since the very beginning and have read most of the books on her lists (2011, 2012 and 2013) save a few I didn't quite manage to finish in time that were quite long (and which even now I still have hopes of returning to at some point and completing). Although the lists are varied--different wars, different perspectives, many books in translation and both male and female writers, it's not surprising that the business of war tends to be mostly in the province of men. Of course that's not entirely true, as this month's read is Geling Yan's The Flowers of War, a story about the Rape of Nanking as told from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. As I've been reading the last few months I've been thinking about war from a female perspective and looking for books that reflect what it's like to be in war as a woman. So, I've come up with a list to share and ask for other ideas to add to it. Most of the titles are nonfiction, but I'm also curious about novels, too.
The Forbidden Zone: A Nurse's Impressions of the First World War by Mary Borden -- "Mary Borden worked for four years in an evacuation hospital unit following the front lines up and down the European theater of the First World War. Describing the men as they march into battle, engaging imaginatively with the stories of individual soldiers, and recounting procedures at the field hospital, the author offers a perspective on the war that is both powerful and intimate."
War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam by Tad Bartimus-- "For the first time, nine women who made journalism history talk candidly about their professional and deeply personal experiences as young reporters who lived, worked, and loved surrounded by war. Their stories span a decade of America’s involvement in Vietnam, from the earliest days of the conflict until the last U.S. helicopters left Saigon in 1975."
Sand in My Shoes: War-Time Diaries of a WAAF by Joan Rice -- "A moving and personal account of a young woman’s experiences of the Second World War from the mother of Sir Tim Rice. Joan Rice had the same ambitions as many young women of her generation: she wanted to write; wanted to travel; wanted to be famous. With the outbreak of World War II she hurried to enlist – aged 20 – in the Women's Auxillary Air Force, hoping for change, for adventure, and for the chance to 'swank around in uniform'."
Sisterhood of Spies: Women of the OSS by Elisabeth McIntosh -- "The daring missions of America s World War II intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), are the stuff of legend, yet the contributions made by the 4,000 women including Julia Child and Marlene Dietrich who served in the OSS are largely unheralded. To tell their fascinating stories, McIntosh, a veteran of sensitive OSS and CIA operations, draws on her own experiences and on interviews with more than 100 OSS women who served all over the world. Captured in rich detail are the riveting tales of clandestine spies, saboteurs, cryptographers, cartographers, analysts, and experts in propaganda, recruiting, and communications, along with the less visible but no less important drivers and secretaries."
Millions Like Us: Women's Lives in the Second World War by Virginia Nicholson -- "In Millions Like Us Virginia Nicholson tells the story of the women's Second World War, through a host of individual women's experiences. We tend to see the Second World War as a man's war, featuring Spitfire crews and brave deeds on the Normandy beaches. But in conditions of "Total War" millions of women - in the Services and on the Home Front - demonstrated that they were cleverer, more broad-minded and altogether more complex than anyone had ever guessed."
Tomorrow Be Brave: A Memoir of the Only Woman to Serve in the French Foreign Legion by Susan Travers -- "Tomorrow to be Brave is the story of Susan Travers's extraordinary life, from her privileged childhood in England through her rebellious youth partying her way across interwar Europe, to her rash decision to join the Free French forces at the outbreak of World War II. In search of adventure -- and a break from her stifling upper-class world -- she could never have dreamed the pivotal role she would play."
Women of the World: The Great Foreign Correspondents by Julia Edwards -- "Edwards, a reporter who has worked in some 100 countries, here traces the achievements of women journalists who have covered world news: Margaret Fuller's New York Herald dispatches in 1848 from revolutionary Rome; Louise Bryant in Moscow during World War I; Dorothy Thompson and Anne O'Hare McCormick in Europe in the 1920s; photographer Margaret Bourke-White's daring exploits in World War II; "Maggie" Higgins in Korea and others."
Rosie the Riveter Revisited: Women, the War and Social Change by Sherna Berger Gluck -- "The poster image of the blonde housewife working in a factory to help her soldier husband win World War II is dispelled by the 10 women (out of forty-five interviewed for an oral history project) who tell their stories here. Blacks and Latinas as well as whites, they entered industry, not only out of patriotism, but for economic opportunity. The experience changed their lives."
Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory by Constance Bowman Reid -- "In 1943 two spirited young teachers decided to do their part for the war effort by spending their summer vacation working the swing shift on a B-24 production line at a San Diego bomber plant. Entering a male-dominated realm of welding torches and bomb bays, they learned to use tools that they had never seen before, live with aluminum shavings in their hair, and get along with supervisors and coworkers from all walks of life."
We That Were Young by Irene Rathbone -- "This fierce anti-war novel by Irene Rathbone (1892-1980) is told from the perspective of a cultured former suffragist and several of her friends- young women who work at rest camps just behind the lines in France and as nurses of the severely wounded in hospitals in London. When Joan loses both her brother and lover to the war, in anger at the enemy she volunteers for work in a munitions plant- but by the end, she is a confirmed pacifist."
Not So Quiet: Stepdaughters of War by Helen Zenna Smith -- "This story offers a rare, funny, bitter, feminist look at war from women actively engaged in it. Published in London in 1930, Not So Quiet...(on the Western Front) is a novel in autobiographical guise that describes a group of British women ambulance drivers on the French front lines during World War 1. As Voluntary Aid Detachment workers, the women pay for the privilege of driving the wounded through shell fire in the freezing cold, on no sleep and an inedible diet, under the watchful eye of their punishing commandant."
Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett -- "And, to no one's great surprise, the conflict centers around the small, arrogantly fundamentalist duchy of Borogravia, which has long prided itself on its unrelenting aggressiveness. A year ago, Polly Perks's brother marched off to battle, and Polly's willing to resort to drastic measures to find him. So she cuts off her hair, dons masculine garb, and -- aided by a well-placed pair of socks -- sets out to join this man's army. Since a nation in such dire need of cannon fodder can't afford to be too picky, Polly is eagerly welcomed into the fighting fold—along with a vampire, a troll, an Igor, a religious fanatic, and two uncommonly close 'friends.' It would appear that Polly 'Ozzer' Perks isn't the only grunt with a secret. But duty calls, the battlefield beckons. And now is the time for all good ... er ... 'men' to come to the aid of their country.
Debs at War: How Wartime Changed Their Lives, 1939-1945 by Anne de Courcy -- "Pre-war debutantes were members of the most protected, not to say isolated, stratum of 20th-century society: the young (17-20) unmarried daughters of the British upper classes. For most of them, the war changed all that for ever. It meant independence and the shock of the new, and daily exposure to customs and attitudes that must have seemed completely alien to them. For many, the almost military regime of an upper class childhood meant they were well suited for the no-nonsense approach needed in wartime. This book records the extraordinary diversity of challenges, shocks and responsibilities they faced - as chauffeurs, couriers, ambulance-drivers, nurses, pilots, spies, decoders, factory workers, farmers, land girls, as well as in the Women's Services."
Whether women serve in combat or not they put their lives on the line as nurses and as soldiers, and have been equally affected by war on the homefront. I'm curious to see if more women soldiers begin writing about their experiences in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Although my list includes only modern wars, surely women have written about their experiences from even earlier wars? (Crimean?, American and French Revolutions?, American Civil War?).
Book suggestions always welcome!