Thursday, March 29, 2007

Stolen Voices: Young People's War Diaries, from World War I to Iraq

Armies in combat kill noncombatants. Whether the killings are intentional or accidental, it always happens. Many men, women, and children who are trying to avoid the conflict lose their lives. All the war zone survivors lose family and friends and suffer great hardships. This is the case in every diary in Stolen Voices: Young People's War Diaries, from World War I to Iraq, edited by Zlata Filipovic, whose tale of Sarajevo is included, and Melanie Challenger.

Filipovic and Challenger have been broad in their selection of diaries. The young writers have many viewpoints about the rightness of the causes of war. Some change their minds during the course of their experiences, while others harden into original prejudices. They even include diaries from young soldiers, who admit killing innocent people.

The last three diaries from Israeli, Palestinian, and Iraqi youth are especially powerful, as readers knows the situations are unresolved. The three all express helplessness. The last diary will be particularly hard for anyone trying to make political sense of the war in Iraq. Hoda Thamir Jehad describes American soldiers killing her friends and her neighbors as they sweep down her street and invade the houses. Despite this, she cheers the Americans for deposing Hussein and promising democracy. Her diary ends in early 2004. I wonder what she thinks now.

Reading is a sub-theme in the book. Most of the young diarists tell about the books they are reading to escape their misery or to improve themselves for a brighter day.

Stolen Voices is a book that should be in all public and school libraries.

Filipovic, Zlata, ed. Stolen Voices: Young People's War Diaries, from World War I to Iraq. New York: Penguin Books, 2006. ISBN 9780143038719


Nonanon said...

You keep just beating me to all these great books; I'm on the waiting list for this one. Thanks for the great review.
I always remember the bit in "All Quiet on the Western Front," when one of the German soldiers is driven nearly mad listening to the horses scream as they die, even though men are dying and screaming all around them. So your bit about animals suffering is particularly compelling and unsettling. So sad that there's never any shortage of material for books like this.

Nonanon said...

Hm, sorry, just re-read your post, don't know where I came up with the animals stuff. Weird! Please forgive me for prattling on so or delete these comments at will.

ricklibrarian said...

Actually, there is animal suffering in this, too. One girl has both a canary and cat starve. Neighbors often seem to shoot cats. A number of horses are slaughter in the early wars, too. Maybe you just read my mind.

Anonymous said...

yes, even in the first chapter of Stolen Voices, Piete Kuhr mentions her kitten, Minka, getting shot by a neighbor.