[audiobook] This was easily the most average Star Wars book. This book could be the template for Star Wars books. That said, I like the part where Lei[audiobook] This was easily the most average Star Wars book. This book could be the template for Star Wars books. That said, I like the part where Leia was sarcastic to Han....more
“In a surprise ruling with major ramifications, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case of Becker vs. Minneapolis Draft Boa“In a surprise ruling with major ramifications, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case of Becker vs. Minneapolis Draft Board for Josiah Becker, who had sued claiming the recently passed Selective Training and Service Act unfairly singles out males. The decision extends the draft to all US citizens age eighteen or older regardless of gender.” –United Press International-Washington, DC, January 13, 1940
World War II is arguably one of the most commonly featured eras in American history. There are books, movies, video games, magazines, libraries, entire museums dedicated to the war and the brave individuals that fought in it. Thus, it takes a unique vision, a different perspective on the war for a book to stand out. The way author Michael Grant chose to do that was to present an alternate history, one in which women were a part of the armed forces, fighting alongside the men on the front lines.
I was actually in the midst of watching Band of Brothers, an HBO series chronicling the exploits of a company of soldiers in the war, when this book was recommended to me. Media portrayals of war are generally not my cup of tea (unless, you know, the Wars are in the Stars), but Band of Brothers was just so good that I was feeling open-minded about exploring this era and the promise of awesome female characters had me ready to check this book out.
And as it turns out, the awesome female characters were just the beginning of what I loved about this book.
Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the three main protagonists, three women who, either voluntarily or by way of the draft, joined the armed forces to fight in World War II. The three women are distinct in their varying backgrounds and motivations for joining the war. The author did an excellent job creating three diverse characters that each had a unique voice and personality. Beyond the fact that they were all women, each of the protagonists came from a differing background and identity, one woman was black, another Jewish, for example. By creating these layers of identities, Grant presented three realistic individuals and portrayed the many facets that influence ones experience in the situation.
I so appreciate that Grant didn’t shy away from the over-arching attitudes of sexism and racism so rampant in the United States in the 1940’s. While women were allowed to join the armed forces and fight alongside the men, they were certainly not treated as equals. The protagonists faced daily harassment, ranging from catcalls to rape-threats, had their abilities misjudged based on their gender, and were regularly relegated to the lesser tasks and roles by their male superiors. This overarching theme added a sense of realism to the story – especially on the heels of the “Great War” fought only by men, women would not have an easy go if suddenly integrating themselves into the army.
My one criticism of this book is my concern that it could contribute to erasure. The premise of this book posits, “what if women were allowed to fight in World War II?” The problem is, some women did fight in World War II! Granted, they did not fight on the front lines among men as equals, as suggested in this novel, but thousands of women did end up joining the armed forces. An example of this is WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service), a branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve composed entirely of women sailors. (Check out the Wikipedia page on WAVES for more on this group of women and a list of further reading). While Front Lines does not ever state that zero women fought in WWII in reality, it would be a natural leap for the reader to make that assumption and it should be noted that this is not at all the case.
Regardless, the book is a great read, meticulously researched and emotionally haunting. The brilliance of this book lies in Grant’s use of the alternate-history premise to portray the reality of the historical events. The protagonists are ordinary people, leading ordinary lives, before they enlist. At the start of the book, Rio is stressing about going out to a movie with a boy. By the end, she has experienced the horrors of war first-hand. Going to the movies seems trivial compared to the violence and death she has now seen. As was the reality for many soldiers in the 1940’s, the lives of these characters will be forever changed by what they experience at war.
And while I will never be able to truly understand what it is like to walk through a minefield, parachute out of a plane into enemy territory, or try to sew up a fellow solider with bombs dropping all around, this book opened my eyes a little wider to what it would have been like to have fought on the front lines.
Front Lines is the first book in a planned trilogy by Michael Grant....more