Kansas City author and teacher Whitney Terrell embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq about a decade ago — writing for publications such as Slate Magazine and The Washington Post. Some of the stories he heard became the basis for his third novel, The Good Lieutenant, an eye-opening look at women in the military.
"Women who have fought in this war have changed the way the military works, and the way that people think about the military," says Terrell. "They're going to change the way that this country thinks about leadership ... and I don't think we've really started to grapple with that fact."
The book tour for The Good Lieutenant kicked off on June 2 in Kansas City with an interview by Kansas City Public Library Director Crosby Kemper III at Unity Temple on the Country Club Plaza.
Terrell was joined on stage by one of the inspirations for the novel: Major Stacy Moore, from Fort Riley, Kansas. They discussed war from a woman's point of view, something that's not often depicted in literature or film.
"It's not something that's new that women are involved in combat, or involved in war. It's been so forever. The mythology is there, (like) the Amazons. Every culture has female warriors," says Moore, who's embarking on a research fellowship with the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California, to investigate security reform, acquisition, and counter-terrorism for the Army.
"There's a lot of good non-fiction out there about women's experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there's not really that fiction that lets young women dream about what they could be if they were in that situation. I think this is where we're starting to fill in that gap."
Suggested additional reading by Moore and Terrell:
- The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq, Helen Benedict
- Band of Sisters, Kirsten Holmstedt
- Soldier Girls, Helen Thorpe
- Plenty of Time When We Get Home, Kayla Williams
New Letters on the Air, public radio's longest-running literary program, is produced by New Letters magazine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Listen to the entire interview with Whitney Terrell here.
Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.