Vivian Wagner

A touching testament to the human will, War Letters is an anthology of correspondence written by those involved in America's major conflicts, from the Civil War to Desert Storm. The writings of soldiers and spies, nurses and wives, journalists and POWs collected here provide new perspectives on the culture of war while laying bare the emotions behind the writers' brave facades. Part of Andrew Carroll's Legacy Project, a national volunteer effort to find and preserve war letters, the book is the culmination of careful editing. After "Dear Abby" helped launch the project in 1998 with a column advising readers to dig up their old letters, Andrew Carroll received 50,000 pieces of correspondence from across the country. For this book, he chose 175 letters.

One of the few positive things that can be said about war is that it inspires good correspondence. The full range of human emotions is represented in these pages: love letters, vengeful letters, humorous letters, uncertain letters, grieving letters. Each provides a window into a persona and a heart. The letter of Lieutenant David Ker a Columbia University student who left college to fight in World War I in which he assures his mother that he is not afraid of dying, takes on a special poignancy when the reader learns that he became one of the 7,000 casualties in the American offensive at France's St. Mihiel. Some of the letters strike a humorous note, including a self-described tall tale about life at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in the Korean War written by Captain H. Richard Hornberger, M.D., and addressed to his mother and father. After the war, Homberger made history of his own when he wrote the book M*A*S*H.

Whether proud, despairing, sarcastic or angry, these letters hide between their lines soldiers scared and longing for home, family members pining for loved ones, prisoners hoping for freedom. Written against all odds, these letters in the end reveal what it means to be human and to endure.

Vivian A. Wagner, Ph.D., is a freelance writer who lives in New Concord, Ohio.

 

A touching testament to the human will, War Letters is an anthology of correspondence written by those involved in America's major conflicts, from the Civil War to Desert Storm. The writings of soldiers and spies, nurses and wives, journalists and POWs collected here provide new perspectives on the culture of war while laying bare the […]

Everyone knows the story of Moses. When the Pharaoh ordered that all Hebrew boys be killed, Hebrew mothers hid their children in baskets by the water. The Pharaoh's daughter found and adopted baby Moses, who grew up to lead his people out of bondage.

It may be an old story, but it has survived retelling after retelling. It has even been made into several films, including the classic The Ten Commandments and more recently, Prince of Egypt.

Julius Lester, author of Pharaoh's Daughter (ages 12 and up), breathes life yet again into the tale and this time for young readers. This time, too, there are some changes. Based on his research into linguistics and history, Lester chooses to call Moses Mosis (meaning is born, and the suffix of Tuthmosis ). He also changes Hebrew to Habiru. Another unusual feature of the book is that it focuses on Mosis's mysterious sister, Almah, as much as it does on Mosis himself.

You probably have never heard of Almah. Lester explains in an author's note that one passage in Exodus mentions a sister and though scholars have always assumed it was Moses' older sister Miriam, the passage does not actually identify her. Lester took creative control at this point, fabricating a different sister: Almah.

Almah goes to live in the Pharaoh's palace with her baby brother, Mosis, when he is adopted by the Pharaoh's daughter. She grows to love Egyptian life, eventually rejecting her Habiru roots to become an Egyptian priestess and a dancer.

Mosis, too, must choose between Egyptian and Habiru culture; unlike his sister, however, he chooses to identify with the culture of his birth. The novel ends while he is still yet a boy, but we know the great leader he will become.

Although steeped in history and religion, Lester's novel appeals to young readers because of its timeless themes. It is a coming of age novel about two teenagers going through awkward adolescences, making choices, and finally finding their true selves.

Vivian A. Wagner is a freelance writer in New Concord, Ohio.

Everyone knows the story of Moses. When the Pharaoh ordered that all Hebrew boys be killed, Hebrew mothers hid their children in baskets by the water. The Pharaoh's daughter found and adopted baby Moses, who grew up to lead his people out of bondage. It may be an old story, but it has survived retelling […]

E.

L. Doctorow's City of God is a novel about almost everything imaginable: New York, the Holocaust, the 20th century, apocalypse, love, religion, and the universe.

The namesake for this novel is St. Augustine's book of the same title, which responded to those who blamed Christianity for the fall of Rome. Augustine saw human history as a struggle between an Earthly City and the City of God with the holy city winning in a final apocalyptic battle.

In Doctorow's novel, the city is New York, the time 1999, and the apocalypse at once personal, psychological, social, and theological.

The novel revolves around an odd occurrence: A cross disappears from behind the altar at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Manhattan, eventually reappearing on the roof of the synagogue for Evolutionary Judaism on the Upper West Side. Everett, a novelist, decides to investigate the mystery and in doing so befriends the priest at the church and the couple who are rabbis at the synagogue.

Always in the background of this novel's tale lies the Holocaust, both its historical reality and its effect on the present. Thus, as he investigates the mystery of the moving cross, Everett also finds himself investigating the Holocaust.

To tell the tale, Doctorow peppers his novel with a multitude of voices speaking directly from the pages of Everett's notebook including an ex-reporter for the New York Times, a Holocaust survivor, a World War II veteran, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Albert Einstein.

In its postmodern use of many voices strung together in a stream-of-consciousness style, City of God resembles the convoluted work of James Joyce, and like Joyce's novels, Doctorow's requires close attention from the reader. What the reader gives to this novel, however, the novel returns tenfold. It is a tale of depth and passion, humor and pain. It is a novel about apocalypse, yes, but it is also about finding hope, love, and some measure of faith amidst the ashes of the 20th century.

Vivian Wagner is a freelance writer in New Concord, Ohio.

E. L. Doctorow's City of God is a novel about almost everything imaginable: New York, the Holocaust, the 20th century, apocalypse, love, religion, and the universe. The namesake for this novel is St. Augustine's book of the same title, which responded to those who blamed Christianity for the fall of Rome. Augustine saw human history […]

Alan M. Dershowitz's new novel Just Revenge confronts one of the most difficult questions of legal and moral theory: Is revenge ever justified? Although it never conclusively decides this question, the novel does take the reader through a labyrinth of horror, obsession, legal wrangling and ultimately reconciliation.

Just Revenge features a Holocaust survivor and professor of religion, Max Menuchen, who has discovered the man who, half a century before in war-torn Lithuania, killed his family as he watched. The mild-mannered professor has never before broken a law, but his discovery of Marcellus Prandus, the Lithuanian militia captain who carried out the anti-Jewish orders of the Nazis, leads him to seek proportional justice.

Rather than simply killing Prandus, who is dying of cancer anyway, Menuchen wants to make him feel what it is like to see his whole family die before his eyes. Menuchen's revenge is gruesome but, as the result of several twists and turns, not quite what you may expect.

The first half of the novel follows Menuchen's enactment of revenge, and the second half deals with the legal repercussions and the courtroom drama which follow this act. Menuchen is defended in court by Abe Ringel, a defense lawyer who is known for defending controversial accused criminals. The courtroom scenes have a few of their own twists, including a surprise witness and a dramatic and unexpected turn at the end of the long trial.

A professor at Harvard Law School and one of the most famous criminal defense lawyers in the country, Dershowitz demonstrates in this, his second novel, a broad intellectual scope and a deep understanding of legal and ethical complexity.

Vivian Wagner is a freelance writer in New Concord, Ohio.

Alan M. Dershowitz's new novel Just Revenge confronts one of the most difficult questions of legal and moral theory: Is revenge ever justified? Although it never conclusively decides this question, the novel does take the reader through a labyrinth of horror, obsession, legal wrangling and ultimately reconciliation. Just Revenge features a Holocaust survivor and professor […]

Coco De Young's A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt combines the everyday details of one girl's childhood with the Great Depression an era that young adults may have studied in history books but rarely would have encountered so directly. Set in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the novel follows the life of 11-year-old Margo Bandini and her Italian immigrant family as the Depression works its way right up to the Bandini doorstep.

Margo feels helpless when she learns that, because of a bad debt brought on by medical treatment her younger brother received for a leg infection, the bank is threatening to take her family's home away. Then her teacher, Miss Dobson, instructs her class to write a letter to someone they feel has done heroic work large or small to help people during this difficult period.

In the depths of her own personal depression, Margo finds a newspaper article about Eleanor Roosevelt, written by a journalist Margo admires. The article says that Mrs. Roosevelt has received hundreds of letters requesting help. She intends to have each one answered. These words inspire Margo; she has at last found someone who was willing to listen to an American girl . . . to an eleven-year-old . . . Along with her letter to the First Lady, Margo encloses her father's Victory Medal from World War I a symbol of her family's devotion to America and waits. The reply she finally receives is more wonderful and complicated than anything she, or the reader, could have guessed.

In her Author's Note at the end of the novel, De Young tells the reader that while fiction, the heart of the story is true ; her father's family, also living in Johnstown, wrote a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt asking for help during the Depression. Like Margo and her family, they too received much-needed financial blessings from the First Family.

The heart of this story is true in even larger ways, however: it speaks to the need for love and connectedness that all families and young adults at times face. And it speaks to the hope that sometimes a call for help will receive a compassionate reply.

(Ages 10 and up) Vivian Wagner is a freelance writer in New Concord, Ohio.

Coco De Young's A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt combines the everyday details of one girl's childhood with the Great Depression an era that young adults may have studied in history books but rarely would have encountered so directly. Set in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the novel follows the life of 11-year-old Margo Bandini and her Italian immigrant […]

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