Book Review: Sunrise over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers
Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers
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Robin "Birdy" Perry feels compelled to leave Harlem, forego college, and join the Army in the aftermath of 9/11. He does just that--without his father's support. In Sunrise over Fallujah, the 2008 young adult novel by acclaim writer Walter Dean Myers, Birdy finds himself in Iraq and attached to a Civil Affairs unit, a group of soldiers assigned the dubious honor of testing the waters in various "hearts and mind" situations with local Iraqis conceived by higher ups who say they are intent on establishing peace and building democracy. Birdy soon learns the people he can trust are the men and women soldiering right alongside them. Beyond this small group, nothing's for sure.
Because soliders who participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom had not only to defeat an enemy but also to build relationships with locals whose loyalties might by lie with the old regime or with some other religious faction or with some other tribe, knowing where to point the gun and when to soot becomes a nightmarish challenge. The Rules of Engagement change from day to day. Nothing is clear. Nobody can be trusted. Everyone has an agenda. And some lies are very convincing.
Myers's novel takes the reader on a journey through the desert, the streets of Baghdad, and other parts of Iraq that are as mysterious as they are ancient and sometimes incomprehensible to the young man from Harlem and his friends--a tough gunner who bounced around in foster care, a wannabe blues musician, a dad--in uniform. Moving forward from day to day with limited information to do job after job on which depends the future of a war-ravaged country about as unlike the US as a country could be turns Birdy and his friends into adults who understand the power and eloquence of silence to speak for the soul from that place deep down where words have no place.
As I turned the pages of this novel about teenagers at war, I found myself muttering, "No way, no way, no way...." because I liked the kids in this story. I could see the students in my classroom becoming these soldiers--and hopefully knowing before it's too late that life is about the person alongside you and the only moment you have is right now.
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