Pure Grit: How American Military Nurses Survived War in the Pacific and Japanese Prison Camp
Where did the idea come from for the book?
My cousin wrote a paper for nursing school about these Army and Navy nurse POWs in WWII. She e-mailed me her paper and as soon as I read it I knew I had to write a book about these brave women.
What genre does your book fall under?
Pure Grit is non-fiction for teens.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Pure Gritis the story of 79 U.S. nurses captured POW by the Japanese after the American surrender of Bataan and Corregidor in 1942.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Pure Grit is represented by Stephen Fraser of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency and will be published by Abrams Books for Young People.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I wrote the first draft in a little over two months, but this was after I had written in-depth proposal which also took at least two months, before which I had been researching this story off and on for several years.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Pure Grit is sort of a combination of Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tonya Lee Stone and The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I have been deeply inspired by the Army and Navy nurses I wrote about in Pure Grit. These women learned combat nursing under fire when the Japanese attacked the Philippines shortly after bombing Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. They treated thousands of wounded and dying soldiers in jerry-rigged jungle hospitals. When forced to surrender they stuck together and continued to nurse the sick and dying. The courage and strength of these women kept them alive through three years’ isolation, disease, and starvation. They are true American heroines and I’m so proud to be able to tell their story.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Romance! Though Pure Grit is a story of war and prison camp, it is also a story of the triumph of the human spirit and the power of love.
Today I’m helping celebrate the new book Frederick Douglass For Kids by Nancy I. Sanders. Join the launch party at Nancy’s blog where she’s giving away prizes, including a free critique of your manuscript’s first page. As the bestselling, award-winning author of over 80 books for kids, I’m pretty sure she knows how to hook a reader with that first page .
Back to Frederick Douglass. He’s one of those people- -you want a spark from his fire.
Born on a plantation, Douglass escaped slavery and helped others to freedom via the Underground Railroad. He became a bestselling author, an outspoken newspaper editor, a brilliant orator, a tireless abolitionist, and a brave civil rights leader. He was famous on both sides of the Atlantic in the years leading up to the Civil War, and when war broke out, Abraham Lincoln invited him to the White House for counsel and advice. Whew!
I wanted to know if Nancy learned anything surprising during her research on this important American leader.
I had mistakenly thought that the Civil War was just a white-man’s war, says Nancy. I thought that it was mainly fought to reunite the Union and that the issue of slavery was just kind of added on toward the end.
When war broke out between the South and the North, Frederick Douglass hurried to his newspaper office and published articles urging the nation to free the slaves forever and to enlist black troops to fight. He knew the war was about ending slavery and would not be successfully won unless both these conditions were met.
I also learned that it wasn’t until black troops were allowed to fight for the Union that the North finally began to experience victory. Black troops were very, very influential in bringing an end to the fighting. In my book, Frederick Douglass for Kids, highlight the achievements and influence black leaders and black troops had on our nation during these crucial years.
Frederick Douglass For Kids: His Life And Times With 21 Activities is great for teachers to use in the classroom. Besides the wide range of subject matter, timeline and resources for further study, the author offers ideas for bringing history alive. Kids can learn how to form a debating club, cook a meal similar to the one Douglass shared with John Brown, make a civil war haversack and experience the power of microlending.
But most importantly, kids reading this book can follow the footsteps of this American hero and see how to turn adversity into courage.
Remember to drop by Nancy's blog for a chance to win a prize during her Book Launch Party. Tell her I sent you.
Great blogging ideas over at Writer Unboxed today. Basically, suggesting that you write about subjects that tie in with the platform for your book, which most likely you’re passionate about, and what connect with those who share your interest.
I totally agree with this advice. But it is a bit harder for those of us who write about various topics. But I’ll take a stab at it.
Did you know WWII soldiers fighting the Japanese in the ill-fated Battle of Bataan kept themselves alive by eating python eggs? And monkey? The worst thing about eating monkey? When you dipped in the pot and your serving looked like a human body part. One soldier said later he felt like a cannibal.
Which reminds me, the United States now has its very own officially approved apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After a thorough investigation, the Bishop of Green Bay Wisconsin has ruled the Queen of Heaven manifested herself to Adele Brise in Champion, Wisconsin, October 9, 1859. (Deets here.) Leading directly to the Battle of Lake Erie, decisive victory in the War of 1812. The reconstructed Flagship Niagara that won the battle will participate this summer in a study of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. The three-week study from the decks of the Niagara will look at the amount of plastic present in the water, and how much plastic fish are eating.
By the way, 100-years ago this month the Schwab Clothing Company in St. Louis reduced garment worker’s wages from $12 a week to $8, rousing 300 additional employees to join the on-going strike against the company. Labor Activist Fannie Sellins traveled the country urging people to boycott Schwab clothing, until the company went out of business in October 1912.
Yes, I am writing about all these topics. Yes, I am passionate about all these topics. To win a copy of my forthcoming book—leave a comment below (before May 15, 2012) guessing which topic the book is about, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win. Thanks to http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/confusion.htm for today's graphic.
Welcome Author Karen Fisher-Alaniz today in remembrance of all those who served in the War in the Pacific 1941-1945.
I heard my father’s WWII stories all my life. I knew he’d been stationed at Pearl Harbor a few years after its bombing. But I wouldn’t have known the details of his service, if it hadn’t been for two notebooks full of letters that sat on a shelf, in my parent’s home, for more than 50-years.
On his 81st birthday, he put them on my lap. I didn’t know what it meant. I went home that night and cried. I cried for all the times I didn’t give him time to talk, all the times I didn’t listen. And although my father told me I could do what I wanted with the letters; I could throw them away or burn them, those letters were the beginning of a journey that neither of us had intended to take. I was a baby boomer and he was aging. More importantly, he’d begun to have symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. My sweet, gentle father had slowly become depressed, angry and haunted by nightmares and flashbacks. And all I wanted to do was to help him. So I started asking questions – once a week – at a local diner.
Sometimes he had answers for me; often he did not. But we kept meeting, week after week, month after month. Slowly, a story was emerging. It was one I couldn’t fathom. My father hadn’t sat behind a desk during the war as he’d told me many times. My father was a top secret code breaker. He’d served on submarines and ships off of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He’d experienced a traumatic loss on one of these missions. It took nine years for the whole and true story to come to the surface.
I can’t help but think about how many veterans’ stories are sitting on someone’s shelf or kept locked deep inside the veteran him/herself. Boxes, scrapbooks, photo albums, that haven’t been cracked open in years. They hold a story waiting to be told. The veteran waits for someone to ask. What if each of us chose one person in our life and simply began asking questions? What if we opened those boxes and listened to the stories that tumbled out?
Veterans of all wars deserve our very best, and sometimes that’s as simple as chatting over breakfast once a week.
Listen to Interview about Karen's book on NPR's Weekend Edition. Karen Fisher-Alaniz is the author of Breaking the Code – a Father’s Secret, a Daughter’s Journey, and the Question That Changed Everything (Sourcebooks, 2011). She can be contacted through her website at http://www.storymatters2.com.
History can turn on a moment of perfect timing. Such is the story of Isaac Murphy, one of the greatest jockeys in the history of American horse racing. Isaac’s record—winning three major stakes races in a single week—still stands one-hundred and fifty years later.
It’s the kind of story I love. A boy born into slavery grows up confronting the odds of grinding labor and poverty, until one day he sees his chance and takes it. The world of horse racing changes forever.
But I’d never heard of Murphy before I happened upon his biography by Kentucky author Patsi B. Trollinger. PERFECT TIMING is written in lively fashion for young people and illustrated with arresting earth-tone paintings by Jerome Lagarrigue.
The author lives not far from the first track where Isaac Murphy raced. Come back next week to hear how she discovered this amazing story.
I woke up to snow falling again this morning. I like snow, but not this slushy stuff. I also like the tried and true strategy, if you can't beat it, join it. So--off to the arctic with Polar Explorer Matthew Henson.
Two men made history in 1909, the first men ever to stand on the North Pole. Admiral Robert Peary is the one you’ve probably heard about. Matthew Henson? Maybe not. Twice on the polar ice cap, Henson saved Peary’s life. The two men faced “sudden storms, frozen peaks and ridges and shifting iceberg castles,” on their perilous journey. Patches of open water and faulty instruments made more trouble before they reached the Pole. The achievement had been both men’s life ambition. But when they returned home some dismissed their accomplishment because Henson was a black man, and Peary downplayed Henson’s contribution to the expedition.
Adults and kids will enjoy this biography of Henson by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Eric Velasquez. I love everything about the illustrations in this biography. The colors, the shapes, the varied scenes. The emotional resonance and the beauty of the art makes this a powerful and stunning book. The text is unique. You will have to read it for yourself to see how this author shows Henson’s determination and strength of purpose through the sentence structure she chose. Fabulous book!
If you haven’t seen it—go. The King’s Speech is about courage, the kind of courage it takes to be a writer. Not many of us are as good-looking as Colin Firth or Helena Bonham Carter, neither are we in line for the throne. But like Prince Albert, we’re trying to find our voice. And all too often we’re scared and we doubt our own potential.
Rolling Stone calls the movie “a crowning achievement powered by a dream cast [that] digs vibrant human drama out of the dry dust of history….The emotion this film produces is staggering."
Nine hours after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese forces bombed the Philippines. Ninety-nine American military nurses served at hospitals there. These woman, unique to their time, had chosen the un-ladylike job of nursing and further sought a life of adventure in the Army and Navy. But they never expected what happened at lunchtime December 8, 1941.
Dozens of US fighters and bombers sat wingtip to wingtip on the tarmac at Clark Air Field when diving, screaming Japanese fighters attacked, destroying all but seven aircraft in less than an hour. The strafing flattened barracks, hangars, and machine shops. Fire engulfed the oil dump and blazed around the perimeter.
Off-duty nurses ran through the smoke and flying shrapnel to treat the wounded and dying. Pieces of crumpled, blazing aircraft scattered Fort Stotsenburg and Clark Air Field. The eighty-seven army and twelve navy nurses had no military training. Nothing had prepared them for the sights, sounds and smells of war. They learned by fire—the medicine of trauma and triage.
As the Japanese marched on Manila, Lieutenant Frances Nash destroyed paperwork to keep it from enemy hands. As US troops retreated into the jungle of the Bataan Peninsula, Frances was ordered to prepare to be taken prisoner by the enemy. She and a handful of other nurses stayed in Manila to treat the wounded left behind. When Frances and her staff finally got orders to flee, she stuffed her pockets with medical supplies and took enough morphine for a lethal dose for each of her nurses. They hid it in their hair, a last resort against an enemy known to rape and murder prisoners.
Frances and her sister nurses would endure hardship almost beyond belief in the combat, surrender and imprisonment to come.
Once I saw the trailer for A Film Unfinished, I knew I had to see it. Though horrified by the images of life in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942, I wanted to know the truth.
Rarely, is the truth clear cut, as this film so aptly demonstrates.
After WWII, an unfinished Nazi propaganda film was discovered in a concrete vault. The silent hour-long rough cut portrayed life in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Shot over 30 days, in May 1942 —just two months before the Nazis started sending the Ghetto’s Jews to Treblinka—the film highlights extremes of poverty and luxury. Edits juxtapose scenes of people dying of starvation on the sidewalks with views of a fancy dinner party.
For nearly half a century historians used the film as a record of life in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Then in a film vault at an American Airbase, a British researcher stumbled on two film cans lying on the floor titled "Das Ghetto". Inside—30-minutes of footage left on the cutting room floor when the Ghetto film was made.The outtakes clearly showed the film crew had staged many of the scenes. Some caught cameramen accidentally filming one another.
Tragically, the scenes of profound suffering and death are not the fakes. Face after face appears, eyes vacant, skin taut over bone. A fly buzzes and lands. A hand too weak to brush it off.
I want to look away, but I don’t. I open myself to see each face that flashes on the screen as an individual human being. That man had a wife and children.That woman had plans and hopes, just like I do. That person never imagined his life would turn out like this.
I look at each skeletal body shown sliding down a chute into the mass grave. I make myself a witness to the human dignity of each one. Because that is an undeniable truth.
I can’t wait to get my hands on the newly released second book in Y S Lee’s Agency series, The Body at the Tower. This time Mary Quinn investigates murder while disguised as a boy, a poor apprentice builder assigned to a building site on the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament.
Lee, with her PhD in Victorian literature and culture, gives us a suspenseful and resonant glimpse of a fascinating moment in history. According to Kirkus Reviews“…the sights, smells and grim lives of London’s poor are richly detailed….”
Though Mary and the clandestine Agency operating out of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls are unrealistic to the time period, they provide a terrific story against a backdrop of accurate and interesting history. I was hooked on Lee’s first book A Spy in the House, when Mary goes undercover during London’s Great Stink of 1858. A smelly situation that really happened. Says Lee,
“It was a particularly warm year and the smell from the grossly polluted Thames became, quite suddenly, unbearable. People panicked. Those who could fled London for the country. And the Great Stink finally pushed the government into cleaning up the Thames and modernizing London’s sewer system.
We know the bare facts: toilets flushed right into the Thames, and Londoners pumped the water straight back out for cooking and bathing. People thought the smell made you sick – not germs. And future prime minister Benjamin Disraeli fled the House of Commons one day with a handkerchief over his nose, so evil was the stench.”
Ah! Those were the good ol’ days.
Lee plans to unveil the cover of yet a third Mary Quinn detective story soon. I’m hoping it won’t be the last.And not just because I won this tee at the twitter book launch of #2. Thanks, Ying!
I am an author of books for young people, and an occasional journalist. I blog about dealing with demons and other dark holes of the writing life, also about literature, history, food, gardening, nature, stuff I like.