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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Kristen Tsetsi Releases Deployment Story That Strikes Chord for Military

I recently found today's guest blogger through one of my other blogs, The New Book Review.
I felt her book had something important to say to those who are left behind when one partner is deployed, so I invited her to provide visitors with a couple excerpts from it. I hope you'll pass this link to those you know who might benefit from it. She says,

When my husband left for Iraq in 2003, it was my first experience with a deployment, and it was not a good one. I was skilled at imagining the worst: being shot down, being kidnapped and held captive, dying. I imagined his funeral, what it would be like to see his casket lowered. There were days I couldn't stand to look at pictures of him because it was too much torture to be able to see, but not see, not touch, the real him. It was too easy to imagine I would never get the chance to see or touch him again.

I can say things like that all day long to people who have never waited for a loved one to survive a war, and they still won't really understand the experience. Two-minute clips on the news don't convey the complexity of the wait. They can't. It takes something the length of a novel, something not afraid to reveal the intimate and honest - and not always yellow-ribbon pretty - thoughts and emotions of those fearing every day that TODAY might be the day the bad news comes.

That was why I wrote Homefront, semi-autobiographical fiction, or “true fiction,” about waiting through a deployment as told from the unsentimental and no-holds-barred point of view of a young woman whose love deploys to Iraq.

Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien writes in his war novel "The Things They Carried": "Story-truth is sometimes truer than happening-truth." I didn't write Homefront as nonfiction because my personal story wasn't unique; but the larger story of waiting is. I also think personal nonfiction has a tendency to exclude the reader, to say to them, "This is MY story. Mine." I don't want readers excluded from a story like this - I want them fully submerged. Because it is fiction, readers will enjoy the characters and their individual conflicts while, at the same time, vicariously experiencing a deployment through the eyes of the protagonist.

I was asked to choose a scene from Homefront that illustrates some of the challenges of waiting, but because there are so many, I chose two. The first conveys the difficulty of the psychological isolation, and how fine the line can be between those who "get" it and those who can't. The other is an example of how ridiculous and infuriating - but at the same time, necessary - the news media can be. Here they are:


Across town there is a party. A strange house filled with strangers, secret smiles and private jokes. No phone—not mine—to wait for, and watching TV would be considered poor form. I put on a different pair of jeans, clean and smelling of a fabric softener, and brush my hair and draw on a layer of lipstick. I look in the mirror and wipe it off, but it stains, in a nice way, I suppose; like my lips, if lips could be, are flushed. I turn on the TV to watch a little, just a little, with an equally little drink, and not a strong one. Not too strong. I bring it to the living room and sit down, and on the screen a sun as perfect and white as a hole punched from paper balances atop the sharp point of a mountaintop.

“Another morning here,” says a man’s voice from behind the image, “and another day for things to go extraordinarily well, or to go horribly, horribly wrong. With each sunrise there is new promise, but that can be a promise of something good or, as we know too well, Janie and Tom, it can be an omen. Yes. A promise of another kind, of something terrible to come.” A red filter covers the sun in blood. “After last night, we could sure use a good day. An intense battle raging for five hours, both in the air and on the ground, losing a reported twenty-five soldiers and marines, and killing approximately one hundred of theirs. And, as you know, Janie and Tom, that’s the highest death count we’ve had on our side in one day since the start of the war.” Janie says they’ll get back to him after these messages, but his voice carries on in my head: Your soldier—that’s right, yours!—could be one of the dead. Tune in at six to find out if you’re today’s winner of an elegant trumpeted service and a brand new, gen-you-ine American flag courtesy of the American Honor Guard!

I wonder if they have a board marked up with tally lines, “their side” and “our side,” each soldier a Roman numeral one. Jake. I. William. I.

I. I. I. I. I. I.
I. I. I. I. I. I.
I. I. I. I. I. I. I.
I. I. I. I. I. I.



She is one of them, one of the others. The man she cares about is here, safe with her. She can’t understand about dusk, the sun’s evil teasing. The time of evening too far from sleep and an ‘x’ across another day, but too close to darkness and the hollow air of no conversation that amplifies the TV sounds of over-acted dialogue and rehearsed applause. Denise doesn’t know the taunting, subtle fade that cues the lighting of yellow windows, the drawing of curtains to hide people living normal lives, eating dinner, yelling top floor to bottom about who wants milk and where are the scissors. She would have little to say about time spent staring out the window at shapeless clouds and cracked sidewalks and meticulously trimmed shrubs, all of it so cheerful and commonplace while over the rooftops and trees and a plane-ride away, “everyday” is mission planning and mortar fire and grass is something they might find
tucked in the fold of a letter.


Kristen Tsetsi is an award-winning fiction writer and a former reporter. Her novel Homefront - available for Kindle and in paperback - was inspired by her husband's 2003 deployment to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division and is highly praised by soldiers and those who love them for its raw, intimate, and accurate depiction of waiting through a war deployment.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence. Find it at Her novel, collection of creative nonfiction and much of her poetry is informed by interest in leading the world toward acceptance of one another. Find her web page dedicated to tolerance at If your Twitter followers would be interested, please pass this on to them using this widget:

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