Soldier's Heart by Elizabeth D. Samet (Book Commentary)

I've included this review from my book commentary site here as I believe it has significance for reading / English educators:

I rarely want to read books about reading books. I’d rather be reading a book. And, as the wife of a retired military man, I shy away from books with a political slant toward the military. Yet something in Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point made me decide to pick it up and once I observed the clear, yet poignant, writing style and respectful even-handed look at the soldiers themselves, I was hooked.

Any teacher hopes her students will walk away from literature with a greater vision of humanity, but a soldier will carry those lessons to a battlefield, to a foreign village, to a brother as he lay dying in their arms. It has always been one of my guiding educational principles that if a teacher loves her subject, she will impart that feeling to her students. And while they may never love her particular choices, they will certainly better understand the depth of feelings and will seek, for their better selves, subjects that empower and beautify their own lives. Elizabeth Samet LOVES literature. Read one chapter and you will know this. She would have been a fine Lit. teacher at any institution. But that she ended up at West Point is a wonderful thing for both her student soldiers and herself.

Samet inherits some standard liberal-leaning professor attitudes, but does a good job of balancing them with respect for the individual soldier. The prose wanders between mundane and profound in a manner only to lighten the subject. Her teaching choices represent wonderful examples of valor and sacrifice, something certain to be of importance in these student’s lives. And while this book adds credence to the importance and love of literature, it shines best when examined as a study of characters: men and women who make up an easily dismissed war machine, who are much, much more than the sum of its parts. In the end, I forgave Samet any political potshots because her respect for her students shined through her politics.

Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point is especially recommended for teachers of young adults, readers who hold stereotypical views of the military, lovers of literature and those seeking insight into the training of those who represent them abroad.

Special Thanks to Library Thing for my copy.
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for

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