Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: VIETNAM

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This (final!) month's prompts are train, trophy, typewriter, umbrella, Vietnam, war, washing machine, widow, window.


This is a prompt (like “typewriter”) that indicates Patty Dann is in the generation just before me. It's not a word that brings up a lot of personal history for me. My grandfather was a WWII vet. My father was born during the years included in the draft, but was not called up. He was an only child, so I've no uncles or any relatives from his side of the family who served. I do know my mother's one brother was career Navy, but I'm not sure where he was during the Vietnam war. Anyhow, my ideas about Vietnam have been largely influenced by the movies and Broadway. Movies like PLATOON and RAMBO (which my father LOVED, and which I remember seeing with him in the theater) introduced me to the brutality of war. 

Later, FORREST GUMP and MISS SAIGON made me feel anger, grief, love for all involved. It's one of those complicated things I'm pretty sure I don't even come close to understanding. And after reading LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME by James W. Loewen, I realize my confusion is largely related to the (lack of) education I got about Vietnam. Probably the Vietnam-related thing most dear to me THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O'Brien. I've just found the Bryan Cranston audio version and will be listening to it in the coming days. 

While I do not enjoy violence (and close my eyes during much of PLATOON and RAMBO and any other war movie), I am also utterly fascinated by the emotions of war, how it affects a person. It really brings a person to the heart of what matters most to them, and I think I crave that kind of self-knowledge. Maybe that's why my next middle grade novel is a “war” book – lots there waiting to be discovered...

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that you will be writing about war. This time of the Vietnam War was a terrible time for the country, maybe similar to today with families torn apart in disagreement. WWII veterans did not understand why younger people hated the fighting. The Flower Children were everywhere, begging and dumpster diving at restaurants for food, not a pretty sight. I liked hearing your thoughts, Irene.


Your thoughts?