Last weekend I participated in Mother Reader’s 48 Hour Reading Challenge. Participants get 48 hours to read and review books of at least a fifth grade reading level. This was right up my alley and I was able to read so many great books by familiar and unfamiliar authors.
African American author Walter Dean Myers’ newest book Sunrise Over Fallujah was one of the books that I curled up with on the first leg of the challenge.
Emotionally, this was a difficult read for me. Walter Dean Myers put the initial days and months of Operation Iraqi Freedom into words through they eyes of Robin “Birdy” Perry. Birdy enters the war at conflict with his dad who did not want his child to even be in the military. He has an uncle who served in the Vietnam War as well as his mother to lean on and encourage him from the outside. He knows his dad loves him but his dad does not agree with his decision to join the military and now be a part of the war.
I’ve never been in the military so I am very removed from war and what it is like. My father served in the Navy and I have a cousin and her husband who have been a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She’s told me stories and shared with me brief details of what it’s like over there as well as what it’s like once you leave and have to readjust to life in America.
We’ve seen reports on the news, read articles about the war and those who lose their lives, but last weekend for several hours I read a detailed account of it. As I read it, I hoped that various characters, especially those who were connected with the protagonist, would survive and get to come back home to live out their dreams, raise their kids, and just simply live their lives with their friends and family.
282 pages is more than enough to share what can happen in a war, but at the same time, it isn’t enough. Reading about the different places that the soldiers went to and the maneuvers they did as well as the need to be on alert as they moved throughout Iraq was well captured by Myers. I can only imagine the number of soldiers that he interviewed as well as articles and news clips that he watched in order to write this story. The details and imagery are very vivid and it encaptured me to the point where I felt that I was riding in the Humvee with Birdie, Ahmed, Marla, Captain Coles, and Jonesy. I could hear Jonesy sing his beloved blues songs while Birdie tried to figure out Marla.
Sunrise Over Fallujah is a wonderfully told story by an author who has told so many stories in the course of my lifetime. It’s a mature YA read that gives a very detailed account of war through the eyes of American soldiers who don’t understand the real purpose of the war nor what exactly is the prize that will go to the victor.
It’s a coming of age story that shows even after you are officially grown, high school diploma in hand, there is still more growing up to be done.
On Saturday, June 14, 2008, Walter Dean Myers will be on Cover to Cover broadcast on BCAT Online.