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An Interview with Writer Alice Boatwright



About Collateral Damage by Alice K. Boatwright



The impetus to write this book goes back to a snowy day in 1968 when I received a letter from one of my high school friends telling me that he had attempted suicide rather than go to Vietnam. I was shocked and, at the same time, not shocked. My older brother had just been sent to fight in the war. My younger brother was worried about the draft. All the young men I knew were struggling with how to handle the first big decision of their adult lives — and it was a very big one — whether to follow the dictates of law or conscience and to face the consequences either way. We young women — their sisters, friends, and lovers — were on the sidelines of this moral conflict, but we were also deeply touched by it, and all of our lives were shaped by it.

I wrote the first version of what would become the first novella, “1968: Getting Out”, when I was a graduate student at Columbia University in 1970. At that time, the wars in South-East Asia and at home were raging, and young people were dying on both fronts.

The second and third novellas, “1982: If I Should Stay” and “1993: Leaving Vietnam”, began later as short stories, and the idea of a “triptych” came later still, when a friend asked me what I wanted to write next, and I realized that it was this book about the broad and lasting impact of the war.

Although the draft ended in 1973, each new war brings up the same questions: what is justified and when, who will fight and why, and will any good come out of it in the end?

Alice K. Boatwright, Paris, France, 2012


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