'The young newspaper reporter wanted to write a book about the war he was covering. But the editors who read his proposal turned it down, all of them. They said the book wouldn’t sell because Americans were tired of reading about these violent foreigners and their centuries-old grudges. The reporter asked for advice from a colleague who had far more experience with these things. Focus the book on someone your readers will connect with, he was told.
The young reporter followed the advice. He took a break from his newspaper job and wrote the book as a first-person memoir. He knew that readers would be more interested if they had an American to identify with. While the book was mostly about the foreigners who suffered through the war, the book’s narrator, from California, was always present, usually at the margins of the narrative though sometimes in the middle. It worked; the book was acquired by a major publisher and received positive reviews when it came out.
I was the young reporter, and that experience a quarter century ago brought home a painful truth. It can be excruciatingly hard to get Americans to care about a war unless an American is at the center of the story. I was in a bind because at the time I covered the war in Bosnia, there were no American troops involved; a belated U.S. bombing campaign came in the war’s final year. The only American whose war experience I could write about was the one I saw in the mirror every day.
America has been at war in Afghanistan since 2001 and in Iraq since 2003, and one of the byproducts of these cataclysms is a vibrant shelf of literature from the generations of Americans who experienced these conflicts firsthand. The books, most of them written by journalists and soldiers and CIA officers, range from embarrassing to surpassing.'
Read more: America's War Narrative Focuses On Its Heroes And Victims. Afghans And Iraqis Are Brushed Aside
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