Shasta Public Libraries' Community Read Theme: War Comes Home
● By Claudia Mosby
Looking HomewardSeptember 2013
By Claudia Mosby
When the men and women who serve our country return home, presumably it is not often they hear, “Do you want talk about it?” Yet, veterans and their loved ones, neighbors and communities must confront the repercussions of combat.
This month and next, all branches of the Shasta Public Libraries will join 42 libraries statewide in a California Reads program funded by Cal Humanities on the theme “War Comes Home,” designed to educate and open dialogue on this sensitive and controversial topic.
The chosen book, "What It’s Like To Go To War" by Vietnam Marine First Lieutenant and Rhodes Scholar Karl Marlantes, presents readers with more than an autobiographical sketch of one soldier’s story of war.
“He’s an eloquent writer about his experience in Vietnam, but the book goes further,” says Elizabeth Kelley, reference librarian for Shasta Public Libraries. “He examines the psychological, philosophical and spiritual dilemmas soldiers face at war and when they return home.”
Kelley is working with others to bring Marlantes to Redding as part of the two-month series, which includes community discussions, film screenings, and activities facilitated by the library’s Teen Advisory Board. A $15,000 grant funded the acquisition of books, staffing and related activities.
Included on the library’s menu of options are several films, noteworthy among them a Bill Moyers interview with Marlantes and a special screening of "Hell And Back Again" on September 11. “Let’s Talk About It” facilitated discussions offer community members an opportunity to engage in discussion and hear from a panel of veterans.
A second book, "A Stranger In My Bed" written by local author Debbie Sprague, may appeal to those particularly interested in how post-traumatic stress disorder has affected not only their veteran loved one but themselves. The author, who is married to a veteran, will speak about her experiences with PTSD in October.
“The point of this is to get the books out into the community, so we will be giving out free copies,” says Kelley who has ordered 300 of the Marlantes book. “We have had so much interest in 'A Stranger In My Bed' that I had to order more. Several of the local book clubs are reading it.” Copies of both books will be acquired for permanent circulation.
With a veteran population of about 10 percent in Shasta County, the Read topic is one that affects vast numbers in the community, from home to church and school to job.
One of three initial grantees of the California State Library (working in partnership with Cal Vets), Shasta Public Libraries was selected to establish one of the first Veterans Resource Centers through the California library system, with the goal of connecting veterans to their benefits.
“Many veterans are not receiving the health and education benefits they are entitled to receive,” says Kelley. “The purpose of our Veteran’s Resource Center is to connect them with these resources. Often friends and family want to learn more and sometimes it is a trickle down process; information gets to veterans that way.”
When Shasta College English professor James Crooks learned about the community read from one of the Shasta College librarians, he contacted Kelley, eager to have his classes participate.
“There are always one or two veterans in most of my classes,” says Crooks, who served in the National Guard during the September 11 attacks and spent a year in Iraq. “The veteran theme is important and it is personally meaningful as well.”
Crooks teaches on the Red Bluff campus but plans to offer his students optional field trips to the Read events in Redding and is also looking for guest speakers to visit his classroom, adding, “I certainly want to dispel stereotypes and raise awareness of the issues that veterans of this generation experience.”
“I hear more and more from people in book clubs say, ‘My dad was in the military and we never talked about it, but there was something wrong,’” says Kelley. “The veteran may have passed away, but people were still affected. We will be discussing what it is like to return from war, the issues not only our returning veterans face but also how family and friends are affected, and what we as a community can learn and do to assist our returning veterans with the transition back to civilian life.”
Members of the community are invited to read the book either individually or as part of a group. “What It’s Like To Go To War” is the featured October selection for the Shasta Public Libraries Best of the West Book Discussion Group.
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