Synopses & Reviews
In the early 1970s, Penny Coleman married Daniel, a young Vietnam veteran and fellow photographer. Soon, Daniel became deeply troubled, falling victim to multiple addictions and becoming strangely insecure. He suffered from what we now call posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After Coleman left him, he committed suicide.
Struggling to understand Daniels experience, Coleman began investigating the history of PTSD; she found clear cases of the disorder as far back as the Civil War. In Flashback, Coleman deftly weaves psychology and military, political, oral, and cultural history to trace the experience of PTSD in the military up through the Vietnam War. She then focuses on Vietnam to show why this war in particular led to such a high number of PTSD cases, many of which ended tragically in suicide. Like the soldiers listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, these men are casualties of war.
With record numbers of American soldiers returning from the Middle East already suffering from PTSD, Flashback provides a necessary lesson on the real tragedy of battle for soldiers and their families, something that continues long after the war ends.
Penny Coleman, the author of Village Elders, teaches photography and photojournalism at the International Center for Photography and at New Jersey City University. She lives with her partner in New York City.
"In this tautly argued study of the link between war-induced post-traumatic stress and suicide, Coleman writes, 'It is only recently that I have begun to think of myself as a Vietnam War widow.' Coleman's first husband, a fellow photographer and Vietnam veteran, killed himself. 'He was hurt in ways I couldn't fix,' the author writes, solemnly reflecting on the years she spent blaming him, and then herself. Coleman (Village Elders) expresses dismay at the inadequacies of her generation's and the military's attitude toward its traumatized men. Gathering stark personal testimonies from other similarly bereaved wives, mothers and daughters, she chillingly reveals the hidden cost of war. Further, with force and conviction, she shows how the U.S. military has systematically denied and cynically managed the psychic impact of war on its soldiers, from early experiments with postwar rehabilitation to frontal lobotomies. She profiles psychiatrists, setting their research and innovations in the necessarily limiting context of the military's goals. With searing insights, Coleman also discusses the social engineering involved in the Vietnam era draft and its notions, both implicit and explicit, of 'disposable' men. This passionately felt book poses more questions than it can answer, but it will surely generate further attention to a sadly timely subject." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Penny Coleman, the author of Village Elders, lives with her family in New York City.