Final Week: Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers Read-a-Long

Today is the final week of our group read-a-long of Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers.  This week we read pages 215-end, and we hope you’ll leave your comments and/or answers to the questions after the post.

We welcome you to post your thoughts on your blog and provide a link or just type your thoughts in the comments section of the discussion post; whatever works best for you. You can answer our questions or just discuss whatever you found most interesting in each section.

***Beware of spoilers***

1.  Were you as a reader prepared for the death of Jonesy? Why or Why not?

S:  I was more prepared than I expected, and in a way, my subconscious sort of knew that he wasn’t going to make it.  There’s something instinctual about how the members of Birdy’s unit keep personal things closer to the vest, but Jonesy had no problem pontificating about his dreams for a Blues club or the promises he made to stay out of direct combat.  These elements combined with his ability to step up when things didn’t seem right made him a likely candidate to get caught in some kind of crossfire.  I was saddened that he died, but it wasn’t unexpected for me.

2.  Birdy finally tells Marla he loves her.  How true do you think that emotion is or is it something else?  Why do you think he found it important to tell her at all?

S:  I think he felt as though he had to tell her because he didn’t expect to see her again, given the unpredictability of war and which soldiers ended up as casualties.  While I think he loved her as a comrade in arms and the solid presence she seemed to represent for him — anchoring him in reality and keeping a level head in combat — I don’t think he was truly in love with her.

3. At the end of the book, Birdy writes a letter to his Uncle Richie about what his experience in Operation Iraqi Freedom and he comes to a realization that his uncle did not talk about his Vietnam War experiences because there were no words that could accurately portray them.  If that’s so, why do you think that are so many novels, memoirs, and other books that try to explain or depict war?

S:  While I think its very hard for veterans of war to talk about their experiences, I also think its important for them to do so — not only for themselves and the cathartic experience it can provide, but also for others to see what war is and not just in an abstract sense.  Novels and memoirs and other books can provide a more personal connection to readers, who may not have experienced war first hand, allowing them to step in someone else’s shoes and feel that fear and constant anxiety.  However, it’s very different than the actual experience of war in which that fear and anxiety is caught up in the unexpected maiming, harm, and death that comes with combat.

If you have discussion questions for the final section, we’d love to hear them. Also, please feel free to offer your final thoughts on the overall book.

Post your own questions or comments here or on your own blog.  We’d love to read your thoughts….

Week 3: Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers Read-a-Long

Today is week 3 of our group read-a-long of Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers.  This week we read pages 153-214, and we hope you’ll leave your comments and/or answers to the questions after the post.

We welcome you to post your thoughts on your blog and provide a link or just type your thoughts in the comments section of the discussion post; whatever works best for you. You can answer our questions or just discuss whatever you found most interesting in each section.

***Beware of spoilers***

1.  Birdy can be seen passing the time with his fellow soldiers — whether playing cards, watching TV, or playing soccer against Iraqi children — but the war continues outside the walls of their “green” zone.  How would you characterize his situation as compared to the other soldiers that constantly face violence and attacks?

S:  Many other books I’ve read about war tend to show the macho side of war and its soldiers, but Birdy still seems innocent and naive…still very much a scared boy.  He’s seen quite a bit of action, but he still seems removed from the fear or the gut reaction for revenge that many novels depict.  It’s tough to get a read on him.  On the other hand, his unit is supposed to be focused on rebuilding Iraq and helping the people get what they need in terms of medical supplies, etc.  Perhaps that’s part of the disconnect — he’s not directly involved in the combat — more like part of the collateral damage.

2.  At one point, Birdy talks about how he’s always reading the newspapers about the war, even though he’s there.  He doesn’t seem to know why he’s reading the papers; why do you think he’s reading them?

S:  It seems to me that he’s not getting the answers he wants from his superiors so he’s taken to the papers and television to find them.  Whether he’s looking for ways to identify the enemy or just to understand the warfare he’s engaged in, I’m not sure.  But his efforts to find answers are likely to fall short if he’s relying on the papers.

3. We’re nearing the end of the book, so what are your thoughts about the book at this point? Do you like it? Why or why not?

S:  I’m on the fence about this book.  There are parts that I like — seeing the human side of the war, the interactions between Birdy and the Iraqi people, the helpful aid given to the Iraqi people — but then there are parts I don’t like — like the disconnect I feel between myself and the characters and the distance between the characters themselves.  Birdy doesn’t want to get too close to his unit-mates and that’s evident.  But it seems like they are all staying at arms length.  And there’s no direct crisis or trauma that really brings them together, except maybe the aftermath of member’s death — but we haven’t seen that yet.

If you have discussion questions for the third section, we’d love to hear them. 

Post your own questions or comments here or on your own blog.  We’d love to read your thoughts….

Week 2: Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers Read-a-Long

Today is week 2 of our group read-a-long of Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers.  This week we read pages 87-152, and we hope you’ll leave your comments and/or answers to the questions after the post.

Click here for Week 1.

We welcome you to post your thoughts on your blog and provide a link or just type your thoughts in the comments section of the discussion post; whatever works best for you. You can answer our questions or just discuss whatever you found most interesting in each section.

***Beware of spoilers***

1.  Speaking with an Iraqi man, he tells Birdy’s unit that it is better to cut off the body of the camel rather than the head when you attempt to kill it because without the head it does not know what it is.  Do you think this is true? Why or why not?

S:    In many ways what he says is true, particularly of a dictatorship.  Without the controlling leader to strong arm the nation into doing what he wants, the nation is unsure what direction it should go in without that dictator.  The ouster of Saddam Hussein left many of the factions in Iraq confused as to where the nation was headed, but also interested in how their new freedom could lead to a different kind of Iraq and how it could be used to right some of the wrongs of the past.  However, that also meant dealing with an invading force of Americans, whose motives they were unclear about.

2.  Identity becomes a big theme in the novel in that the American CA unit is unsure who the enemy is and which Iraqi people are happy to see them and who they should be helping.  What does this theme tell you about the characters? And about the military as depicted in this novel?

S:  The American soldiers may have gone through the training they needed to fight in battles, but they were clearly not given enough background on Iraq the country or which tribes and factions existed in the country outside of the ruling power of Saddam Hussein.  The lack of knowledge has left these soldiers at a disadvantage when it comes to identifying the enemy and those in need.  The theme also raises questions about the military focus on following orders without question and the faceless identity it is meant to create as the units move as one with a single purpose.  As identifying the enemy becomes harder, it is also harder for the individual soldiers to stay identity-less.  They are forced to seek out explanations for the actions of their own military and that of the Iraq people, even if those explanations do not seem to make much logical sense.

If you have discussion questions for the second section, we’d love to hear them. 

Post your own questions or comments here or on your own blog.  We’d love to read your thoughts….

Week 1: Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers Read-a-Long

Today is week 1 of our group read-a-long of Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers.  This week we read pages 1-86, and we hope you’ll leave your comments and/or answers to the questions after the post.

We welcome you to post your thoughts on your blog and provide a link or just type your thoughts in the comments section of the discussion post; whatever works best for you. You can answer our questions or just discuss whatever you found most interesting in each section.

***Beware of spoilers***

1.  What are your first impressions of Robin “Birdy” Perry?

S:  So far, I like Birdy.  He’s amped up, but not overly so.  He’s aware that war changes people, like his uncle, but he’s also aware that he was to contribute to society.  While he’s a little unsure of his place in the army and feeling unprepared for the realities of war, he’s adjusting on the fly and trying to make the most of it.  It’s clear he’s gone through the training, but I don’t think he feels prepared enough.

2.  Civilian Affairs Battalion is expected to help the Iraqi people rebuild democracy.  What do you think about that mission — realistic, too idealistic, or a combination?

S:  I love the idea of being able to help a people rebuild after the elimination of a dictatorship, but when you’re also doing the ousting, it’s a little difficult to separate the two missions, especially when the people rarely, if ever, speak English or even have common goals.  I think at best its an ideal, but at worst its a delusion that will quickly unravel.

3. How realistic do you find the characters initial interactions with each other and their reactions to what goes on around them?

S:  I’m enjoying the enigmatic Jonesy for his blues and his connection to religion, while I’m also very engaged by the tough girl, Marla Kennedy.  It seems like Jonesy’s trying to be aloof and tough, not trying to get too attached, but he’s taken sort of an instant liking to Birdy.  Meanwhile, Birdy cannot seem to make out Marla or Jonesy’s motives or personalities yet, which is probably the nature of war and how it makes people want to remain as removed from others as possible to avoid the unavoidable loss they will feel if someone dies.  So far, the interactions between the characters are believable given the situation and what’s expected of them.  I really enjoy how Myers pinpoints reactions with body language as well as dialogue, like when Jonesy’s hand is twitching and Birdy’s just staring at the dead boy.

If you have discussion questions for the first section, we’d love to hear them.  Post here or on your own blog.  We’d love to read your thoughts….

February Read-a-Long of Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

As part of the War Through The Generations 2014 Reading Challenge with a Twist, we’ll be hosting a read-a-long for the Gulf Wars (Gulf War/Operation Desert Storm and Iraq War/Operation Iraqi Freedom).

In February, we’ll be reading Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers, which is about Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Discussion questions will be posted on Friday for the designated chapters.  As there are no chapter numbers, we’ll have to use approximate page numbers.

Here’s the reading schedule and discussion dates:

  • Friday, Feb. 7:  Pgs. 1-86 (ends with “I don’t mind, though.”
  • Friday, Feb. 14: Pgs. 87-152 (begins with “April 12, 2003″; ends with “nothing over here.”)
  • Friday, Feb. 21: Pgs. 153-214 (begins with “Sergeant Harris and Jonesy got” and ends with “toothpaste to the Iraqis.”)
  • Friday, Feb.  28:  Pgs. 215-end (begins with “A tribal leader”)

We hope you’ll be joining us next month for our Gulf Wars read-a-long.

Read-a-Longs for 2014 War Challenge

Since readers can read any of the war categories throughout the year, we thought it would be additional fun to host several read-a-longs.

In February, we’ll be hosting a read-a-long for Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers for the Gulf Wars (this one is about Operation Iraqi Freedom).  SCHEDULE TBD SOON.

In April, we’ll be hosting a read-a-long for the French and Indian War with I Am Regina by Sally M. Keehn.  SCHEDULE released in March.

In June, we’ll be hosting a read-a-long for the Korean War, with War Babies by Frederick Busch.  SCHEDULE released in May.

In August for the 100th anniversary of WWI, we’ll be hosting a read-a-long of Stella Bain by Antia Shreve.  SCHEDULE released in July.

In October, we’ll be hosting a read-a-long of The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter for WWII.  SCHEDULE released in September.

In December, for the Vietnam War, we’ll be hosting a read-a-long for Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien.  SCHEDULE released in November.

We hope that you’ll be joining us for at least one or more of these read-a-longs in 2014.

Gulf Wars (Gulf War/Operation Desert Storm and Iraq War/Operation Iraqi Freedom) Review Linky

It is the start of the 2014 War Through the Generations Reading Challenge With a Twist. For January and February, reviews for the Gulf Wars should be linked here.

To be clear, you don’t have to read just Gulf War books now, but any of the books that fit the war categories.  We’ll just be posting the linkies for the reviews in the months we designated here.

Welcome to the Gulf Wars (Gulf War/Operation Desert Storm and Iraq War/Operation Iraqi Freedom) Reviews linky for Jan./Feb.:

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