On Veteran’s Day, we take a moment to honor those who have served. But why not use today as an opportunity to learn about the experiences of veterans and their families throughout history? To get you started, we picked out a few titles that should be on your reading list.
New Men by John Casey, Jr. focuses on the lives of Civil War veterans as they attempted to integrate back into civilian life, and also examines how the concept of being a “veteran” in society emerged through representations of these soldiers in America at the time. Casey argues that after the Civil War, “veteran” ceased to be a temporary status but rather became a permanent marker seperating former soldiers from civilians, on the basis of the assumption that they had been changed by their experiences at war. (248 pages, cloth, $55)
Shades of Green by Ryan W. Keating also explores veterans of the Civil War, but adopts the perspective of the Irish immigrant. Through extensive quantitative analysis of records from the nineteenth century, Keating investigates the participation of Irish Americans in the Civil War as it relates to local communities. While traditional scholarship holds that Irish troops were either assimilated into American society or further alienated due to the Civil War, Keating finds that Irish-Americans were already thoroughly assimilated into their local communities, and the role of the ethnic community in the lives of these men was smaller than originally assumed. (320 pages, paper, $40)
Looking for a more personal story? Try Louise Desalvo’s Chasing Ghosts: A Memoir of a Father, Gone to War. DeSalvo deconstructs her complex relationship with her father through the lens of his service in the military in World War II. Her memoir also brings the specific experiences of working-class veterans to light and highlights the potentially adverse effects of war upon both veterans their families. Publishers Weekly says, “This painstakingly researched work not only explores a daughter’s love for her father but also proves the dire effects of war (and particularly of WWII) on families, exposing the deeper “wounds of the soul” suffered by both soldiers and their loved ones.” (288 pages, 24.95)