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Joel P. Rhodes is a professor in the History Department of Southeast Missouri State University. He is the author of several books, including Growing Up in a Land Called Honalee: The Sixties in the Lives of American Children. He lives in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Works by Joel P. Rhodes

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The Vietnam War in American Childhood from Joel P. Rhodes is both an important compilation of information and a disappointment as far as any overall coherence. Coupled with dry writing and several instances of either poorly chosen words or poorly formed thoughts (not sure which), I rounded my rating down to a 3 rather than up to a 4.

For someone like myself who is a member of the demographic under consideration here (I was born in 1958) the information was interesting on several levels. First, simply remembering what that time was like was a mixed bag. Rhodes covered a wide range of society that impacted the young children of that period. So the nostalgia, not all good and not all bad, was interesting. Second, reading the ways in which these things did or might have influenced us from that time through our adulthood was thought-provoking.

It was in the area of drawing conclusions, even if they were vague or in need of additional research, where the book was most disappointing. I never got much of a feel for any coherence or even an attempt at a working hypothesis for what the experience produced in the children of the time. Every time Rhodes seemed about ready to draw a conclusion he would backpedal and end up just stating multiple possibilities. There isn't anything inherently wrong with that, but when a book is really just serving as an information source for future research and conclusions it would be nice to be told. As just such a book, this works much better than as a work that makes any kind of a stand or draws any kind of conclusion.

In several instances Rhodes makes comments (a couple are quotes from other people but he leaves them without comment so he seems to agree) that give the false impression that protesters inherently were against "the boys over there fighting." This was incorrect then and has been shown repeatedly to be nothing more than propaganda to subvert the legitimate protests against the country's involvement in the war. Most of us who protested knew men over there, particularly ones like myself with older siblings and from a career military family. We weren't, on the whole, slamming those individuals, most of whom did not want to be there, we were slamming the blatant disregard for human life and the near complete lunacy of the so-called rationale for being there. So by including these comments without clarification makes this a questionable addition to any work on the war itself even while citing good research (unfortunately way too much anecdotal to be taken too seriously) about how it might have impacted children.

Having said all that, there is still a lot of good information in here, even if you are best served finding the original studies and forming your own conclusions. As such, I still recommend this to anyone interested in the effects war, particularly filtered through various media and products, has on young people. Growing up thinking you will have to either go to a pointless "war" or find some way to avoid it is, unquestionably, stressful and no doubt has lingering consequences. Most of us didn't have the money or connections to stay in college or join the National Guard so we could kill our own people rather than go to war against an armed enemy, or if one is truly cowardly, claim bone spurs to hide out.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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½
 
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pomo58 | Nov 17, 2019 |

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