War, Terrorism, and Telling a Story

New York, NY, Nov 2, 2003 — Terrorism, the war in Iraq, and continued violence in Israel sparked the guiding theme of tolerance and conscience for this year’s Yeshiva College Book Project: “How to Tell a True War Story: War, Memory, and the Individual.”

To put current events into historical perspective, this year’s Book Project committee selected Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam War novel, The Things They Carried. Headed by Dr. Elizabeth Stewart, a lecturer in YC’s English department, the eighth annual Book Project was launched August 26 at Weissberg Commons in Belfer Hall and featured a dinner and discussion with remarks by President Richard Joel and Chancellor Norman Lamm.

The Things They Carried is a novel based on O’Brien’s time as a soldier in Vietnam. The book received the prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger (France) and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

“I hope that The Things They Carried will open up discussion about the psychic and emotional burdens placed by war on the individual and society, and about the human drive to express trauma in language—issues close to the surface in much of our world today,” Dr. Stewart said.

During the dinner, freshmen and returning Israel students feasted on Chinese dumplings, chicken, rice, and vegetables over roundtable discussions about the book.

President Joel urged students to look at The Things They Carried not only as a story about war, but also as a personal journey—one each student will go through at YU.

The 2003 Book Project will feature numerous events throughout the academic year. Mr.O’Brien will be on campus November 19 for a discussion and dinner, and other speakers will include Jonathan Schell, historian and author of The Unconquerable World, and various YU faculty who will discuss the history and politics of the Vietnam War.

The Things They Carried is, unfortunately, particularly relevant to our lives, post September 11 and post-Intifada,” said YC dean Norman Adler. “Both of our cultures—American and Jewish/Israeli—are under attack. Tim O’Brien’s searing memoir on how one can react to war and terror seemed pertinent.”

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