Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: The Tender Soldier by Vanessa M. Gezari

Disclaimer: I was contacted by Simon and Schuster  to review The Tender SoldierI was compensated with a product for this review.All opinions and observations are mine. 

Operation Enduring Freedom began when I was a sophomore in high school. We debated it in Model U.N., talked about it in history, and knew of people who deployed with the National Guard and Reserves; however, as the war dragged on, I became less and less engaged with it, as did many other Americans. To be quite honest, even when John deployed to Afghanistan last year, I kept my distance from the news. When I was contacted by Simon and Schuster to reviewThe Tender Soldier: A True Story of War and Sacrifice , I was not sure that I wanted to. Unlike Three Cups of Tea or Kite Runner,  this book seemed like it would hit just a little closer to home.

The Tender Soldier is both the objective and heart-wrenching chronicle of the key players of the Human Terrain System, a project meant to probe and help American military personnel grasp a deeper understanding of Afghan culture. Their goal is to study and analyze Afghan culture so that military personnel can competently, knowledgeably, and strategically communicate and interact with Afghan leaders and citizens. It is obvious that Gezari's purpose is to give us a holistic portrait of this daring undertaking. She is neither nostalgic or harsh, but fair in her assessment and descriptions of the events and people involved.

I'm a sucker for great writing, and Gezari did not disappoint. The author walks a fine line of being meticulous and journalistic in her research and prose and crafting an engaging story. At times stark, at other times descriptive, the prose is always perfect for the moment. While nonfiction-- especially that about the military-- can be tedious and laden with acronyms and jargon for the sake of sounding official, The Tender Soldier does not cross the line of hubris. Instead, I found myself as deeply interested in the intricacies of the Human Terrain System and the political jostling to create it as I was in the lively and engaging profiles of the team members and detailed descriptions of the country and culture of Afghanistan.

While a sobering look at the failures of our presence in Afghanistan, it is also uplifting. Throughout the duration of the book, the members of the Human Terrain System are deeply committed both to sociology and their work in the field. They are optimists and hold tightly to the belief that,cultural understanding and study is an important pillar of military strategy.  This alone makes The Tender Soldier a very worthwhile read.

Got the bug to read The Tender Soldier? Simon and Schuster is giving away a copy to one of my lucky bookworms! Enter below!

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