An absolutely compelling war memoir marked by the author’s incredible strength of character and vulnerability.

A devastating memoir of a woman’s experiences in Iraq that ultimately reflects how “there is no real end to war, only the absence of it, a lull in the fighting, a time during which another generation is born for the kill.”

At the age of 19, King (It’s My Country Too: Women’s Military Stories from the American Revolution in Afghanistan, 2017, etc.) was deployed to Iraq as a “wheel-vehicle mechanic,” which required her to recover vehicles rendered inoperable due to mechanical issues often caused by enemy fire. However, sometimes she also had to salvage the body parts of fellow soldiers who had been killed in those vehicles. “We were told every soldier gets a black bag and every piece of flesh, bone, or body part not connected to a full body was to have its own separate bag,” she writes. As a sergeant explained, “there is no certainty that the leg lying near one body is actually that body’s leg. It’s not your job to figure that shit out. It’s your job to clean it up.” Throughout her deployment she saw soldiers inured to the violence and death, and she tried to be detached and courageous even when she was thrown for a loop by mortar fire that left a fragment of shrapnel in her shin. Impressively, King coolly relates the countless horrors she witnessed. Readers who don’t know certain elements of war jargon—Strykers, nametape defilade, BOHICA, etc.—should consult a dictionary or the internet; this immediate narrative has little room for such explanations. As if her nightmarish experiences in the war weren’t difficult enough, she relates the equally arduous challenge of returning home pregnant with twins and suffering from and denying PTSD. Throughout, King’s descriptions are graphic, clear, and frightening to read.

An absolutely compelling war memoir marked by the author’s incredible strength of character and vulnerability.

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64012-118-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Potomac Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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