THAT MAD GAME, GROWING UP IN A WARZONE, An Anthology of Essays from Around the Globe. Edited by J.L.Powers
If all high school students and their parents would read this book, perhaps they would then yearn for peace, clamor for peace, and also have a deeper compassion for all who have fought wars, escaped from war, or who have lost home, family, and childhood because of war.
Kurt Vonnegut would be pleased. Vonnegut, who was a U.S. prisoner of war in Dresden when the city was fire-bombed by U.S. planes, wrote in his book, Slaughter House Five:
“You know what I say to people when I hear they’re writing anti-war books?”
“No. What do you say…?”
“I say, Why don’t you write an anti-glacier book instead?’”
War…is as easy to stop as glaciers.
THAT MAD GAME is a collection of personal essays that can move glaciers. At least they will move the human heart to consider the suffering of those who experience the violence and terror of war. “Those” include soldiers, children of soldiers or children of war victims.
Each essay presents a unique perspective, and each one shares pain but also hope. Even humor.
The title itself causes one to pause and reflect:
“War, that mad game the world so loves to play,
And for it does so dearly pay…
Yet at the last the box sweeps all away.”
Jonathan Swift, “”Ode to Sir William Temple,” 1689 CE
In an interview with the author, J.L. Powers, she talks about why she created this collection of essays and what she hopes the impact will be on readers – terror or hope?
Question: Each essay describes not only a terrible war situation but also the lack of compassion from others. In each “mad war game” there is a division between “we” and “them.” The “them” become the monsters and as was written in a recent Arizona paper, “just shoot them.” How can we change this perception of today’s “them,” for example, refugees from the Middle East, families who have entered illegally across a border, or the far right tea party politicians?
J.L.: A critical component in changing our perceptions of people we consider “them” or the “other” is getting to know a member of the group in question. Putting a face to “them” can do wonders to changing our perception of people we don’t know and who may seem alien. This is true not just of people of other ethnic groups, but also of people whose religious or political beliefs seem strange to us.
Often, when we meet an adult or child who appears “different,” we tend to demonize; we find that our perceptions are skewed, biased, or simply inaccurate. People “see” what they anticipate “seeing.” Given the realities of prejudice and intolerance, narrative is the key to changing people’s perception. Personal narratives are powerful tools for transforming the way we think.
Question: What do you hope readers will remember – will take with them – after reading this anthology? How do you hope readers might be changed?
J.L.: I hope to illuminate the many ways that war damages the most precious members of any society, our children. No matter how many excuses we put on the face of any war–whether offensive or defensive–children suffer terribly. And nobody, nobody, wants that, except the most deranged immoral members of human society, people like Joseph Kony. If we begin to recognize that all wars have an enormous human cost–no matter what legitimate or illegitimate reasons we offer in defense–perhaps it will make us less likely to support war. I find it profoundly moving to read books like The Fear by Peter Godwin, about the nonviolent ways Zimbabweans have responded to the increasingly violent and erratic behavior of their dictator, Robert Mugabe. Most of us would consider it justified if Zimbabweans started a civil war, and yet they have chosen another path. There are enormous wounds in that society, and among those wounds are those of victims who must learn to heal from torture and murder of innocents by a dictator determined to stay in power no matter the cost. Yet these citizens have actively resisted the additional wounds that accompany war.
Question: What can a reader do? Any suggestions? When I finished reading many of the individual essays, I wanted to do something to increase compassion, awareness, tolerance, etc.
J.L.: The United States today is home to millions of people who have fled wars on every continent. No matter where you live in the U.S., you will find a nearby organization servicing refugees, American soldiers, and others who suffer from the effects of war. Many of these organizations are in desperate need of volunteers. If you can’t find such an organization, there are hundreds online that will accept donations, letters, and other forms of support.
This anthology, THAT MAD GAME, GROWING UP IN A WARZONE, deals specifically with the effects of war on children. One of the essays reveals the emotional costs for American children whose parents are returning soldiers, suffering from PTSD or depression, both are devastating forms of emotional disability. Some statistics show that our returning soldiers have the highest rate of suicide in U.S. history.
And of course, what about the children who have lost a parent to our wars? Or who now have a parent who is disabled? The military has programs for us to write letters of support and encouragement to our soldiers and their children. Quaker and Mennonite pacifist organizations have done incredible work with our soldiers. See what exists in your community first and then go beyond as needed.
Thank you for listening,
That Mad Game, Growing Up in a Warzone was published by Cinco Puntos Press, 2012. For more information about this book, contact John Byrd at email@example.com
Jessica L. Powers is a novelist and scholar. Her recent novel This Thing Called the Future is a coming-of-age story set in post-apartheid South Africa and has received recognition as an outstanding contribution to YA literature, including The Patterson Prize for Young People.