Return to TCK World homepage

Suggested Readings

MILITARY BRATS: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress

by Mary Edwards Wertsch, with an introduction by Pat Conroy

Military Brats is a startling, ground-breaking exploration of the long-term psychological effects of growing up in warrior society, with an emphasis on resolving the experience successfully. Based on five years of research, including in-depth interviews with 80 military brats as well as physicians, teachers, psychologists, social workers, and others, this book explores the profound consequences-both positive and negative-of being raised in a family characterized by rigid discipline, nomadic rootlessness, dedication to the military mission, and the threat of war and personal loss.

For daughters of the Fortress, the key issue is their invisibility to the warrior father, stemming from the biological fact that they could never be combat warriors themselves. But daughters nevertheless internalize the warrior model-and it serves them well in later life. For sons, the issue is often relentless, inescapable visibility: The fact of male gender draws the demanding gaze of the authoritarian warrior like a lightning rod, while approval and praise are rare. But sons who in adulthood learn to break out of this pattern heal not only themselves; they can become a bridge of healing for others, including their fathers.

With its clear-eyed, sometimes shocking explorations of alcoholism and domestic violence, and its empathy for military parents caught up in an extremely demanding way of life, Military Brats provides catharsis, insight, and a path toward healing. Military Brats not only defines America's most invisible minority for the very first time, it also passionately exhorts those children to come to terms with their negative Fortress legacies so that they might take full advantage of the positive endowment that is also their birthright.

Civilians will find this book eye opening. Military parents will find it at once challenging and sympathetic. And military brats will know in their hearts that this is the book they've been waiting for.

Raised in a military family, Mary Edwards Wertsch is a seasoned investigative journalist. She now lives in St. Louis with her husband and two sons.

If you'd like to learn more about this book, or about the author, visit:
An Interview with Mary Edwards Wertsch.

"A comprehensive, well-written and moving study of the effects of military life on children -- who 'serve' with no recognition or glory."
-- United Press International

From the Introduction by Pat Conroy
"By writing this book, Mary Edwards Wertsch handed me a visa to an invisible city where I'm welcomed for the first time as a native son. Her book speaks in a language that is clear and stinging and instantly recognizable to me, yet it's a language I was not even aware I spoke. She isolates the military brats of America as a new indigenous subculture with our own customs, rites of passage, forms of communication, and folkways. When I wrote The Great Santini I thought I'd lived a life like no other child in this country. I had no clue that with The Great Santini, I had accidentally broken into the heart of both the military brat's truth and cliché. With this book, Mary astonished me and introduced me to a secret family I did not know I had.

"But Mary takes the testimony of these children of the military experience and tells us what it means. With her brilliant analysis of these far- flung anonymous voices, she lets us know that we are brothers and sisters who belong to a hidden, unpraised country. To those of us without homes or hometowns, Mary Wertsch gives us, for the first time, a sense and spirit of place."
-- Pat Conroy, author of The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides

Aletheia Publications. (1991) 452 pages; extensive endnotes, index. ISBN: 0-9639260-3-9

Return to Index of Suggested Readings
Return to TCK World homepage
This page is: