Month: August 2015

V-J Day: The End of an Era & Return to Normal

creadick_300When World War II ended in August 1945, Americans entered a period of readjustment. After decades of depression and war, the country had to cope with the emotional, physical, and economic wounds of war. As a sort of post-traumatic stress response to World War II, a political and social discourse centered on the return to “normal” swept through the American population. This idea of “normality” was a keyword in postwar American culture, to the point of near obsession. Anna Creadick’s Perfectly Average charts this pursuit of “normality” through scientific studies, literary texts, and mass media among other materials, and shows that “normal” was a standard Americans actively and impossibly pursued.

Perfectly Average focuses on the period between 1945 to 1963, when the United States struggled with the massive demobilization of troops, reintegration of veterans into the workforce, and massive reorganization of society’s ideals and values. In its analysis of the aftermath of World War II, In particular, it demonstrates the complexities and contradictions in this drive to “normality” in hopes to create uniformly average citizens. What exactly was “normality” in the postwar decades? Why did the population endlessly pursue these impossible ideals? What forces, political and otherwise, were at play in shaping the culture and behavior of the period? In Perfectly Average, Creadick analyzes the nationalistic undertones of “American exceptionalism” that infiltrated everything from postwar scholarship to middle class apparel. Normality went from being a concept to a system of organization for minds, bodies, sexualities, and communities.

A graduate of UMass Amherst, author Anna Creadick is currently an associate professor of English at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. For more information on her book or other volumes in the Culture, Politics, and Cold War series, please review our website page.

 

 

 

Emily Esten is an Editorial Intern at UMass Press. She is a junior History/Digital Humanities major at UMass Amherst. 

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Still Healing After All These Years

As if Donald Trump questioning whether John McCain was a Vietnam War hero wasn’t enough of a cruel reminder of the divisions and divisiveness of that misbegotten war, there was more bad news in the latest issue of JAMA Psychiatry published last week. In an article entitled “Course of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 40 Years After the Vietnam War: Findings from the National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study,” the authors pointed out that: “Approximately 271,000 Vietnam theater veterans have current full PTSD plus sub-threshold war-zone PTSD, one-third of whom have current major depressive disorder, 40 or more years after the war.” (Emphasis mine).

“These findings underscore the need for mental health services for many decades for veterans with PTSD symptoms,” the authors conclude, an ominous prediction for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Think about it. Half a century since the first U. S. Marines landed in Da Nang (March 1965) and more than 40 years since the last American soldiers left the battlefields of Vietnam (March 1973), nearly 300,0000 Vietnam veterans are still suffering.

Mightily.

Study leader Charles Marmar of NYU’s medical school, told NPR that too many Vietnam vets “still get flashbacks, they’re irritable, depressed, they can’t sleep well.”

“Many are quite alienated from family and friends, and have trouble either in the workplace or in their family environments,” added Marmar.

I’d argue that it’s not too late to finally bring these veterans home – and to help them heal. What my co-author Craig Werner and I discovered from a decade of interviews with hundreds of Vietnam vets is that music is one way to do this. Our book, We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War (to be published this fall by University of Massachusetts Press) shows how music helped Vietnam soldiers/veterans to connect to each other and to the World back home and to cope with the complexities of the war they had been sent to fight.

While it wasn’t our intention to write a theoretical or academic book, our understanding of the stories the vets shared was influenced by ongoing research into the relationships among music, memory, and trauma. A cottage industry of recent studies, sparked by Daniel Levitin’s This Is Your Brain on Music and Oliver Sacks’s Musicophilia, document how, if the circumstances are right, music can help heal psychological wounds. In fact, a good number of recent veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan afflicted with PTSD are using music as a form of therapy.

Is it too late for Vietnam veterans? We think not, and We Gotta Get Out of This Place is proof. Many of the men and women we interviewed had never talked about their Vietnam war experience, even with their spouses and family members. But they could talk about a song – “Dock of the Bay,” These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” “Purple Haze,” “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “My Girl,” “Fortunate Son” and scores of others – and in that remembering, begin to heal from the war’s wounds.

JAMA Psychiatry link:

http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2398184

WGGO link:

http://www.umass.edu/umpress/title/we-gotta-get-out-place

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Doug Bradley, a Vietnam veteran from Madison, Wisconsin, is co-author with Craig Werner of We Gotta Get Out of This PlacDoug Bradleye: The Soundtrack to the Vietnam War, forthcoming from University of Massachusetts Press, November 2015. He’s also the author of DEROS Vietnam: Dispatches from the Air-Conditioned Jungle.

2016 Juniper Literary Prizes

In celebration of our forty-year commitment to contemporary letters, the University of Massachusetts Press—in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Amherst MFA Program for Poets and Writers—announces an expanded Juniper Prize initiative dedicated to bringing distinct, fresh voices to a wide audience.

The Juniper Literary Series will award two prizes each for poetry and for fiction. One prize will recognize a first publication. The second will be open to previously published poets and writers as well. Each of the four recipients will be awarded $1,000 and publication.

The Juniper Literary Series takes its name from Fort Juniper, the house that the poet Robert Francis (1901–1987) built by hand in the woods in western Massachusetts. When UMass Press launched the Juniper Prize for Poetry in 1975, we were one of the first university presses to publish contemporary poetry. We introduced the Juniper Prize for Fiction in 2004 to honor outstanding literary fiction.

Our prize-winning poets include Lucille Clifton, Lynda Hull, Richard Jackson, and Arthur Vogelsang. Our prize-winning fiction writers include Rod Val Moore, Andrew Malan Milward, Dwight Yates, and Lynn Lurie.

The Juniper Literary Series is open for submissions annually from August 1 through September 30. Poetry winners are selected by James Haug, James Tate, and Dara Wier.  Fiction submissions are juried by alternating UMass Amherst MFA professors.

The prizes will open for submissions August 1 to September 30, 2015. For submission information, please visit our website.

The sky is on fire with blue
And wind keeps ringing, ringing the fire bell.
—from “Cold” by Robert Francis