Sunday, January 27, 2013

Reading: Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson

Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson is a true story about how Ryan himself joined the Army Reserve after September 11th. This book was assigned for me to read for a seminar I took that centered on childhood and war studies. I don't have much back-story with this book other than that so let's just get right into the review.
Right when I picked this book up to read I was hooked. Smithson's writing style was very personal and real life. It felt like one of my peers had written the book. Smithson tells a tale about how he grew up really fast after the twin towers collapsed. He felt he needed to do something for his country and therefore joined the Army Reserve. He was soon deployed to Iraq and this book focuses on his time there and the after-math of being there. One thing I very much enjoyed about this book was the general idea that Smithson says, we Americans are spoiled to no end. This book is sort of a wake up call. Smithson states throughout the novel that Americans are spoiled, pampered, and ignorant to what really goes on in the Middle East. Of course he is partially right. Americans are very ignorant to all of the facts about the Middle East and it has a lot to do with the news we watch and the magazine articles we read. Smithson goes into great detail about the conditions he had to live with in Iraq, the people he met along the way, and the emotions he felt during the entire experience.
Although Smithson's war experience is often times moving and raw, I found his narration to be annoying after a while. His tone seemed very forceful. At one point in the novel he lectures his readers that Americans don't take the time to learn about the soldier's true experience. Well, I don't know about anyone else who picked up this book...but the fact that I and so many others did pick it up I believe says a lot about what Americans want to learn and Smithson isn't giving his readers enough credit. He seems to hold himself in higher regard. Another fault, which I did not see at first but one of my classmates pointed out, is that Smithson seems to shake off the notion that to make a huge decision you do not need to put in a lot of thought. The front cover sports the quote, "If I don't do something, who will?". Okay, I get it. I understand that we all feel that we have a bigger purpose in life to help people, etc. etc. However, that doesn't mean we just go and do what-ever we please just because it seems right at the time. Smithson just came across as an immature teen when he went into detail about enlisting and such. In some ways, I guess he wanted his readers to get the sense that he had been immature but I don't think his experiences matured him as much as they changed his view on the world and those around him. He matured from the experience but not in the ways that he thought he did...or at least from what I observed. He was still a bit arrogant when he left for Iraq and when he returned. His outlook on life was just flipped.
This book was a unique read though and in the end, I did enjoy it. Smithson's experiences were very intense and it was very enlightening to read about actual experience in Iraq. I think it is safe to say that this book will stay with me for a long time. I will give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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