Did you know that today is National Military Brat Day? That’s right, we have an actual day! In honor of this occasion, I thought I’d share a few fiction books about brats (and often by brats). What a perfect coincidence that my publisher released the Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of my debut novel, Beneath Wandering Stars–the story of a modern-day Army brat–in April, the Month of the Military Child. If you’re at all interested in reading this Young Adult, coming-of-age story before anyone else (one that adults will hopefully enjoy, too), please scroll down and enter to win an advanced copy!
But before we get to this “new kid on the block,” let’s talk about some members of the popular crowd in the world of military brat books.
The Great Santini by Pat Conroy
The story of a Marine fighter pilot and his family, The Great Santini is a modern classic that captures one of the archetypes of military life–the authoritarian officer father. Although not every military brat grows up under such a strict regime, many will sympathize with Ben Meecham, the Great Santini’s eldest son, as he confronts his love/hate relationship with his larger-than-life father and fights to come into his own.
Sadly, Pat Conroy passed away just last month from pancreatic cancer. Like many brats, Conroy grappled with his complex identity his entire life and often explored these conflicts in his writing. He once told NPR:
“I’m a military brat. My father was a Marine Corps fighter pilot from Chicago, Ill. I did not live in Southern towns, I lived on bases. I was a Roman Catholic, which is the strangest thing you can be in the South. Not only that, I married a Jewish woman from Bensonhurst. So when people refer to me as a Southerner … I liked it because I never had a home. It was the first name that was ever associated with me that put me in a place.”
The Yokota Officer’s Club by Sarah Bird
“After a year away at college, military brat Bernadette Root has come ‘home’ to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, to spend the summer with her bizarre yet comforting clan. Ruled by a strict, regimented Air Force Major father, but grounded in their mother’s particular brand of humor, Bernie’s family was destined for military greatness during the glory days of the mid-’50s. But in Base life, where an unkempt lawn is cause for reassignment, one fateful misstep changed the Roots’ world forever…”
Durable Goods by Elizabeth Berg
“On the hot Texas Army base she calls home, Katie spends the lazy days of her summer waiting: waiting to grow up; waiting for Dickie Mack to fall in love with her; waiting for her breasts to blossom; waiting for the beatings to stop. Since their mother died, Katie and her older sister, Diane, have struggled to understand their increasingly distant, often violent father. While Diane escapes into the arms of her boyfriend, Katie hides in her room or escapes to her best friend’s house—until Katie’s admiration for her strong-willed sister leads her on an adventure that transforms her life.”
The Year of the Jungle by Suzanne Collins
If you’re familiar with The Hunger Games, you may already know that the author of this YA sensation is an Air Force BRAT–and upbringing that surely influenced her ideas on violence and war. Suzanne Collins explores military life more directly in her children’s picture book, which is a semi-autobiographical account of the year her own father went to the Vietnam War.
It Burns a Lovely Light by Penny McCann Pennington
This USA BEST BOOK FINALIST is on my summer reading list!
“‘Us four and no more’ is the James family motto as Farley, savant-like William, and their beloved parents move from military base to military base. Then, in the course of one horrific evening, the family becomes completely unsprung. Stunned and grief-stricken, Farley and William move into their aunt’s decrepit boarding house overlooking the city of Pittsburgh – a city still reeling from the loss if its great steel industry. But tragedy threatens from several directions, and their newly-built family must pull together in order to save what they can from disaster yet again.”
Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles
Here it is, my debut novel, which will be published this coming August! In the meantime, I’d love to give a few ARCs away to other book-reading BRATs (and anyone else who is interested), so I hope you’ll enter the raffle below!
In researching books about military families, I’ve discovered that many of the most popular brat novels depict military life during the Vietnam era or earlier. While many aspects of the military lifestyle remain the same (e.g. moving around a lot), one of the things that led me to write Beneath Wandering Stars was a desire to share the experience of military brats since 9/11, as well as what it’s like to be stationed overseas in Europe during high school. Here’s a short summary of the story:
After her soldier brother is horribly wounded in Afghanistan, Gabriela must honor the vow she made: If anything ever happened to him, she would walk the Camino de Santiago through Spain, making a pilgrimage in his name. The worst part is that the promise stipulates that she must travel with her brother’s best friend–another young soldier and a guy she has despised all her life. Her brother is in a coma, and Gabi feels that she has no time to waste, but she is unsure. Will she hesitate too long, or risk her own happiness to keep a promise? An up-close look at the lives of the children of military families, Beneath Wandering Stars takes readers on a journey of love, danger, laughter, and friendship, against all odds.
Enter to win an Advanced Reader Copy!a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Do you have any favorite BRAT books that I missed? I’d love to see other recommendations, so please leave a comment below.