Three mini-reviews

Stolen Voices: Young People’s War Diaries, from World War I to Iraq, Zlata Filipovic and Melanie Challenger

We had to read Zlata’s Diary in ninth grade, and I remember thinking, Sheesh, if I were Zlata as a grown-up, I would really wish these diaries weren’t out there.  They are just like the diaries I kept at that age, lots of Oh why is this happening to me, and How can these trivial things make me happy when there is so much darkness in my life? – the difference being, of course, that she actually had bad stuff happening to me; and the other difference being that I sensibly chucked my old diaries in the trash when I reached the age of reason.

However, I am glad that not everyone did that, and I really enjoyed reading these diaries from all different wars, esp. WWII, my favorite war to read about because Hitler was a Very Evil Villain, and hooray for defeating him though down with bad behavior of a retaliatory nature at Dresden.  (Ours not his.)  I like reading other people’s letters and diaries.  If I were not on a specific and necessary book-buying embargo, I would be buying L.M. Montgomery’s journals right this minute.

Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag

I like Susan Sontag.  I really do.  One of these days I am going to read one of her proper books, rather than just essays – thoughher essays are excellent.  Regarding the Pain of Others discusses the idea of war photography – whether the iconic war images we all remember were real or posed, and whether it matters; whether we lose sympathy as we become inured to seeing gruesome images and videos on the TV every night; the role of photography in memory of horrific events; how these images can make people into voyeurs as well as witnesses; and all sorts of things.  She raises more questions than she answers, writing as she always does with lucidity and compassion.

Children Who See Too Much: Lessons from the Child Witness to Violence Project, Betsy McAlister Groves

I do not like reading this sort of book.  I find it really upsetting.  However, I signed up for Jeane’s DogEar Reading Challenge – everyone does these but me!  I feel so left out of the challenges party! but not anymore! – and in order to make myself read this, I made Children Who See Too Much one of the books I was going to read, a nonfiction book on a topic I don’t usually read about (because it makes me really upset).  And it worked, voila!  I read it.

DogEar ReadingChallenge

It made me really upset.  I cry really easily, but seriously, I had to sit next to a box of tissues while I was reading this, because the stories Ms. Groves tells about children she worked with are so tragic (it’s banal but true!).  What gets me is how responsible many of the children seemed to feel for the violence they witnessed – as a great big control freak, this resonated with me.  I think it’s important for people to be aware of how children process what they see, and that children – like adults – need to talk about traumatic things that happen to them; and important for parents to realize how conflict between them, particularly violent conflict, can have a profound and lasting effect on their children.  So I am glad I read this book.

  • Hm, I’ve yet to chuck my old diaries in the trash *mental note*

    I think sometimes people don’t know how to deal with children having knowledge they don’t think they ought to have, and so they adopt the let’s-pretend-nothing-happened strategy. It’s a pity, because these things really need to be talked about.

    • I agree with you. And I think another issue is that people think children’s memories somehow don’t count – like because they’re young, it won’t sink in or something – and because nobody likes thinking about unpleasant things, it’s often just easier to stop talking about them. But it’s definitely clear from the book (and life! I’m a social worker’s kid!) that it’s crucial to help the kids find ways to deal with what they’ve been through.