Saturday, August 16, 2008

True Fiction for child victims

No matter how one feels about the war in Iraq, all must surely agree that the children who are left behind are the innocent victims. As I watched news clips after the invasion of Iraq, I felt deep empathy and sorrow for the children pulled from the arms of a mom or dad, and in some cases, both, after a prolonged and tearful goodbye. I listened to a mother left behind with three preschool age children who at first missed their father. When he did not return right away, they refused to talk about him, for it was easier to forget him, than to suffer the pain of his "abandonment." When a new boy started school with my grandchildren, I learned that he had come to live with his grandparents when both his parents were deployed to fight in Iraq. 
How does that feel? I asked myself. But I knew, just from agony of homesickness I suffered from a two week separation from my parents when I was nine. And they were not that far away. Just multiply that experience a hundredfold or a thousandfold, and I'd have an idea. What if they never came back? was my next question. How could I know what that was like? I had recently lost my mother and five years before that, my dad. I know the ache of missing them. But I'm an adult. My parents were in their eighties and their deaths were not unexpected. I could only imagine how painful it would be for a nine year old to lose a parent. 
But imagine I did, getting into the heart and mind of Danny, a fictional nine-year-old boy, as best I could. He is a rancher's son, and very close to his father. They worked and played together, and when Danny asked for a horse of his own, his dad could not refuse him. The horse, Dragon, becomes Danny's pride and joy and constant companion until the day his father dies. Then he can't look at him anymore, sure that it was the expense of the horse that forced his dad to join the Air National Guard, go to Iraq, and die in a fiery plane crash. Blaming his horse and himself, he withdraws from everything. 
The story continues as the loss is compounded on his family, (himself, his mother, and older sister) each dealing with his or her grief privately. Financially unable to hold on to the mortgaged cattle ranch, they move to Denver to live with Danny's grandparents. 
Can Danny adapt? Will he survive this additional loss of everything he has ever known. Will he get his "Dragon" back? Will his family, torn apart by deep personal sorrow, ever regain the happy unity they once shared? When Danny confronts the "enemy," an Iraqi classmate in the Denver school, will blame and hatred overwhelm him?   
The answers may be found in "Danny's Dragon" by Janet Muirhead Hill in book stores or online at

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