Tim O’Brien talked about his classic book The Things They Carried on MSNBC’s Velshi as part of host Ali Velshi’s recurring Banned Book Club segment.

Variously described as a novel and a short story collection, The Things They Carried was published in 1990 by Houghton Mifflin. The book, which follows a group of American soldiers in the Vietnam War, received significant acclaim from critics (although a Kirkus reviewer was unimpressed, calling it “annoyingly arty” and “a disappointment”).

The book has been the subject of challenges in high schools by people who object to its use of profanity.

O’Brien told Velshi that the book was inspired by the conflicting emotions he felt as a soldier in Vietnam.

“It’s an emotional book,” O’Brien said. “I think it’s an honest book. It’s a way of checking out of telling the lies, which apparently MAGA America has now fallen in love with, ideological fairy tales. Some of those ideological fairy tales are about war itself, American soldiers, and they’re always behaving righteously. They don’t cuss; they don’t use profanity. But as a writer, it feels that’s my obligation in the pages of a work of fiction to do my best to be forthright and honest. You can’t have a soldier, badly wounded, saying ‘Gee willikers, I’ve been shot.’ Soldiers just don’t talk that way.”

Michael Schaub is a contributing writer.