Next book: War is the Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges

hedgesJoin us on April 4th in the 3rd floor conference room of the Schurz Library at 5:30pm to discuss this tour de force!

Some discussion questions include:

  1. Do you accept Hedges’ suggestion that war is inevitable?
  2. Hedges stresses the importance of the first death, the first atrocity in the prelude to a war, quoting Elias Canetti who wrote, “It is the first death which infects everyone with the feeling of being threatened” (144). Why is the first death, the first battle or atrocity, so important? Why is it often difficult later to go back and examine what initially led to a war?
  3. The concept of the protection of the dead in war, and the importance of a proper burial are discussed several times throughout the book. Why are these concepts important?
  4. Hedges believes that “the only antidote to ward off self-destruction and the indiscriminate use of force is humility and, ultimately, compassion” [p. 17]. In what ways has America moved away from these virtues in the past decade? How can
    humility and compassion, individually and collectively, restrain nations from going to war? Why is it so difficult, and so important, to feel compassion for one’s enemies? What memorable examples of compassion does the book provide?
  5. Hedges writes that the deadly attraction of war is that “even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living” [p. 3]. At the end of the book, he writes that love “alone gives us meaning that endures” [p. 184–85]. How can we ensure that love, rather than war,
    remains the force that gives meaning to our lives?
  6. Is Hedges a victim of war? Has been affected even more deeply that he lets on in the book? Did his position as a journalist shield him from certain aspects of war that soldiers face, or was he affected in the same way?

Book Club questions for Feb. 8

Prof. of History Tom Murphy will be sharing some visual aids and starting off our conversation on Thursday with the following questions:

  • ​Why does a book about the end of the World War I focus on the war itself?

    Henry Gunther
  • Why do we care about Henry Gunther’s death?
  • Why did the fighting continue until 11 am on November 11?
  • What do we learn about World War I?  Why are stories from the war so compelling?
  • What elements of the war interested you?  Which people?
  • What repercussions of the Great War continue to affect world conflicts and politics today?

Feb 8th at 5:30 — Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918 World War I and Its Violent Climax

An eye-opening study of the final hours of a war that threatened never to end.

Kirkus Review

Book club meeting:   Thursday, Feb 8th at 5:30 in the Fireside room off of the Grill in the IU South Bend Administration Building. 

Author Joseph E. Persico reconstructs the activities of the British and American troops on the final morning of WWI, along with the reprise of the major aspects of the war that led up to that eventful day. This book was selected to marking the 100th anniversary of the First World War.


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Please note that the IU South Bend Libraries has several films related to this topic, including: 

The Last Day of World War I by  A&E Television Networks, LLC. URL [South Bend] 

New York, N.Y. : Films Media Group, [2010], c2004. (44 minutes) The final hour and day of World War I – 11 o’clock on November 11, 1918 – were decided upon well in advance. Why, then, were more than 13,000 soldiers killed that last morning of the war? Based on Joseph E. Persico’s book 11th Month, 11th Day, 11th Hour, this A&E Special reveals how Allied leaders found outrageous excuses to send thousands of soldiers to their deaths against a defeated enemy. Why did they do it? Rare footage and photos from the conflict’s last hours form a chilling indictment of the horror and pointlessness of war.

The last day of World War One by John Hayes Fisher. URL [Bloomington, Columbus, East, IUPUI, Kokomo, Northwest, South Bend, Southeast];1522729 (Available on campus and off campus with authorized logon)  

London, England : British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 2008. (50 minutes) On a windswept hill in Northern France , stands one of the great memorials to the dead from the first World War. It was a war which affected almost every family in Britain. But even after the armistice was signed on November the 11th, 1918 , the terrible reality was that soldiers continue to be killed in battle. This is the story of how the war which was meant to end all wars, finally came to a close.


Anatomy of a Soldier – November 7th (note: change of date)


There will be a change of venue for our next meeting!  On Tuesday evening at 5:30 we will be gathering in the 3rd floor conference room 301 at the IU South Bend Franklin D. Schurz Library.   

We will be discussing, Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker.  This novel takes a unique conceit of being told entirely from the perspective of 45 inanimate objects that play a role in the story of a soldier seriously injured by an IED.  The novelist, Harry Parker, is a British soldier who lost both his legs in Afghanistan.  He has since completed a postgraduate degree in fine art at the Royal Drawing School in Shoreditch.  An article about the author can be found at:

Rodger Pinto, the campus President of the Student Veterans Organization will lead our discussion.  His insights will give us a deeper understanding of a more recent conflict.   


Art of Valor event

The Art of Valor is a collaborative exhibition between local veterans, the South Bend Vet Center, and artists from the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University South Bend. Veterans from the South Bend community volunteered to share their military experiences with the artists, who each created a piece of art reflecting what the artist interpreted from the veteran.

Included in the exhibit will be the masterful and moving portraits produced with a thermal-imaging camera. Professor Richard Gray uses his unique art to capture the viewer’s imagination and creativity by showing a different perception of the veteran.

August 26 – November 12, 2017 

South Bend Art Museum | Jerome J. Crowley Community Gallery

120 South Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., South Bend, IN 46601

Reception: Friday, September 1 | 5:00 – 9:00 p.m.




Fall 2017 – The Things They Carried

Next meeting: Thursday, September 28th at 5:00 pm, Fireside Rooms near the University Grille on the first floor of the IU South Bend Administration Building.  Parking is free.

Our next book selection is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This awarding winning book is a collection of linked short stories about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War. It is the author’s  third book about the war, based upon his experiences as a soldier in the 23rd Infantry Division.  O’Brien’s book was  a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award. More recently, it was included among’s “List of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime” and was credited as the inspiration for a National Veterans Art Museum exhibit of the same name in Chicago.

It is also one of the 75 titles in the National Endowment for the Art’s Big Read program that is designed to broaden understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. We are so excited that  IU South Bend’s Prof. James VanderVeen, associate professor of Sociology and Anthropology, and Rhiannon Carlson, Veteran Counselor & Program Coordinator, along with community partners Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library and the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, is a recipient of a grant of $11,300 to host the NEA Big Read in St. Joseph County. And our Veterans Book Club is one of the kick-off events.

Copies of the book are available from Vicki Bloom, Dean of Library Services (  There are also books available to check out on the 5th floor of Schurz Library at: PS3565.B75 T48 2009.

Book club meetings are open to all!   You do not have to be a veteran to attend.

We will be holding our second book club meeting later this fall (date not yet set) and will be discussing Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker.

Terminal Lance creator wins award

Maximilian Uriarte was awarded the James Webb Award for fiction by the Marine Heritage Foundation for his graphic novel,  The White Donkey,  a recent book club selection. Winners are recognized for their outstanding portrayal of Marine Corps history, traditions and culture in a broad range of fields, including photography, documentaries, journalism, poetry, nonfiction and fiction writing.

If you have not read this amazing book, you can check it out from the Schurz Library: call number PN6727.U74 W55 2016 (5th floor).

We are so pleased!  During our book discussion, we had a great Skype discussion with the author.


“War is profane”

Wendell Affield, the author of tonight’s book club selection, Muddy Jungle Rivers will be leading our discussion.   Librarian Rhonda Culbertson interviewed Mr. Affield on the phone recently to learn more about him and his book.  Here is what she learned:

Mr. Affield is soft-spoken and articulate.  His voice has the distinctive cadence and faint accent that reminds me of his generation of the Minnesotans I grew up with.  He and his wife live near Bemidji, Minnesota, in a log cabin overlooking a small lake that flows into the nearby Mississippi River.  A pair of swans are summer residents, and great entertainment.

He had a difficult childhood on a small farm in Northern Minnesota.  Both his mother and stepfather struggled with mental illness.   At 17 he enlisted in the Navy, and while still a teenager he was deployed to Vietnam during the Tet offensive, as a member of the Mobile Riverine Force.  He piloted an armor troop carrier through the delta of the Mekong river and then on the Cua Viet River, just south of the DMZ.  He was seriously wounded in an ambush and was  medevaced off the river.  Later he was brought back to the United States for rehabilitation and therapy for his injuries.  The emotional and psychological wounds took longer to heal.  Not until retirement did he begin the process of writing his memoirs.  He started attending classes at Bemidji State University to learn the craft of writing.  Over a period of ten years he honed his collection of memories and stories into a book.  Considering the vividness and detail of his writing, it is surprising that Mr. Affield did not keep a diary during his time in Vietnam.

Mr. Affield and I also talked about some of the moral and ethical challenges faced by soldiers in combat situations.  Although he entered the navy with a fairly limited picture of the larger world, he felt that his childhood on a small farm and growing up near Red Lake Nation, an Ojibwe reservation north of Bemidji, gave him insight into the agrarian existence of the Vietnamese peasants.  He was able to empathize with their plight, and imagine how people in his own community might react to the violent intrusions of war.

He feels fortunate that he did not have to fight in a context where he had to be the first to fire, or where the difference between soldier and civilian was blurred.  He has a great deal of empathy for current soldiers who are fighting terrorists in an arena where the distinction is not always clear.  One of the most gratifying aspects of sharing his story has been the contacts he has made with other veterans, many through social media.  Veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress are particularly drawn to his talks and workshops.  He makes sure to have information about local veteran resources at all of his appearances.

Mr. Affield feels that writing can be a powerful healing tool for anyone dealing with trauma; not just veterans.  Several times he mentioned that the act of writing the trauma down ‘puts boundaries’ around an event, and allows the writer to start making sense of the traumatic injuries and to approach them more dispassionately.  He recommends the book, Writing War: A Guide to Telling Your Own Story, by Ron Capps as an aid for those who would like to record their own experiences.

He hopes that accounts like his can help us, as a country, learn from the past.  While reading H.R. McMasters’ Dereliction of Duty, Affield was outraged at the hubris and lies made by national leaders in the early 1960s—deception that dragged this country into the Vietnam War. He hopes that Mr. McMasters remembers what he wrote while serving as National Security Advisor for the current administration. .

Mr. Affield closed our conversation with an anecdote.  He wanted to place copies of his book in his former business place. He felt he needed to warn the owner, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, that there was profanity in the book.  The owner took a long look at the author and said, “Wendell, war is profane.”

Next book: Muddy Jungle Rivers

Author Wendell Affield will be at our next meeting on Tuesday, April 18 at 5:00 pm to discuss his memoir, Muddy Jungle Rivers.  This event, which is free and open to the public, will be held  in the Bridge area on the 3rd floor of Wiekamp Hall.

Mr. Affield was 17 years old when he enlisted in the Navy, and was sent to Vietnam. His memoirs describe the harrowing experiences of a teenager in challenging and sometimemuddys overwhelming combat situations. He was wounded in an ambush while driving a river patrol boat.  Later in life, Mr. Affield enrolled as a university student and started the process of writing his memoirs. The resulting  book is an engrossing first-hand account that vividly portrays his experiences, and eloquently describes the moral and emotional effects of those experiences.

At this book club meeting, Mr. Affield will share and answer questions about his military experience, his writing process, and subsequent work with students and veterans.

Copies of the book (call number: DS558.7 .A34 2012) can be checked out at the IU South Bend Schurz Library, or by contacting Vicki Bloom at For questions or to rsvp, please contact

Discussion Topics – Soldier Girls

What were your thoughts about women serving in the military before you read Soldier Girls?

Did these women defy your expectations about “soldier girls”?

Was there one woman to whom you were most drawn? One whose story you found most interesting or poignant?

What surprised you about their experiences?

What are your thoughts about the different strategies that the women used to cope?

Did the military do more to help or to damage them?

What do you think they took away from the National Guard?