Neil (Tavares FL)
A Worthwhile Book
This book gives insight into the education of cadets at West Point, as well as their feelings about war and peace. Professor Samet teaches literature and related subjects, which provide her students with intellectual and emotional insights. These, as well as her understanding and support, help many through the difficult deployments that lie ahead. Her choice of assignments is also interesting. This is a worthwhile book.
Wendy (Kalamazoo MI)
Soldier's Heart tugs at the heart
In this time of unjust war, it is heart wrenching to read the stories of men and women preparing for war. Their education is often secondary but in this book we see how their feelings may change due to their experience or how their perceptions differ from those of us that do not have to experience these horrors. Connecting classic literature to what they are going through is truly a great way to gain insight into their psyches. Elizabeth Samet is able to convey the mixed emotions she had in becoming a part of the military family as well as how she associates herself with her students and relates to them. A good read.
Beverly (Huntersville NC)
My heart goes out
I did not know what to expect from this book as I do not know much about military culture. But I was curious on how literature is taught to student soldiers who may one day need to go to war. I did learn more about military culture and the hearts of these student soldiers. I am glad that the soldiers find comfort in the literature lessons learned.
I would recommend this book for those who want to understand more about the dedication of these student soldiers.
I admired the humanism in these student soldier at such a young age and knowing that the United States is developing great leaders.
Carol (Isle MN)
Literature, soldiers and war
As a retired Army officer, who did not attend West Point, this book made me proud to be an Army officer. Dr. Samet allows the reader a glimpse into the rigors and variety of academic life at West Point. I wish I had had the opportunity to experience a professor like Dr. Samet in my undergraduate days. The discussions that take place in her classes and seminars are enviable. Her list of books and movies could keep one busy for a long time.
Dr. Samet's writing style made me feel like we were enjoying a cup of coffee together. The flight of ideas that one has when conversing about a wide range of subjects. This would be a very interesting book for a book club discussion; with it's topics of war, literature, women in the military, a civilian's relationship to the military and the effects of our current Long War.
An interesting book for any young person approaching or in college, especially if there is any thought of a military career. Highly recommended, most of us are too removed from the military.
Nona (Evanston IL)
Elizabeth Samet, Soldier's Heart
When Elizabeth Samet’s mother tells friends that her daughter teaches English at West Point, it is not unusual for them to reply, “You mean they read?” Though not as naïve or cynical as that about education at West Point, I found that I knew relatively little about this institution and what I learned about it from Samet’s memoir of her ten year experience there was fascinating.
“This is a story of my intellectual and emotional connections to military culture and to certain people in it, but the real drama lies in the way the cadets I teach and the officers with whom I work negotiate the multiple contradictions of their private and professional world, “she writes, and her analysis of these topics and individuals is as penetrating as the many analyzes of literary works on war which she draws on through her text. Though welcomed by her colleagues and the immediate West Point community, she remains a civilian, a woman, and a teacher of humanities who thus is able to maintain a certain critical distance for her (largely affectionate/sympathetic) observations.
As one who has had the opportunity of teaching English literature to undergraduates at a large Midwestern state university and to medical students (by the way, there is a surprising correlation between cadets and medical students, both of whom are at the very bottom of a strict hierarchy), I envied Samet’s classes (would I ever had had the opportunity to teach a course on the idea of London in literature?) and came to admire her and her students. At a time of life when most of their contemporaries are cutting loose on college campuses, these students willingly subject themselves to the most rigorous and iron-bound traditions and strictures, and commit their lives—literally in this time of war—to public service. Upon finishing Samet’s well-written book, I knew that West Point cadets and their faculty—both civilian and military-- not only read but they also think.
Jo (DeRidder LA)
A Soldier's Heart
Elizabeth Samet is a civilian who has spent 10 years teaching English to West Point cadets. The reader learns about traditions at West Point and the impact of women attending the traditionally all male academy. The book is sprinkled with her stories of individual cadets and the impact that her class, or the books that they read, had on their lives. She sees their English classes as teaching them to think where in most of their military and other classes, they are learning information. Samet is devoted to developing young military leaders who will be equipped to handle the situations that will come their way. She continues to correspond with former students who tell her of the books they are reading while in combat situations and how this helps them. I found it a very interesting read.
Laurie (Nellysford VA)
A Soldier Armed with a Love of Literature is Well-armed
In the context of teaching literature to West Point cadets, Elizabeth Samet addresses the persistent question, “Why read?” As strongly as she believes that she is arming them with something they need, she is fully aware of the responsive question posed by many cadets: “What’s the difference, ma’am? I’ll be in Iraq within a year anyway.”
Samet’s compassionate portrayal of the lives of West Point cadets introduces the day-to-day West Point life to the civilian reader. The personal details she offers about her students help the reader to see the cadets as individuals, rather than as interchangeable second lieutenants-to-be. When I reviewed the passages I had underlined, I noticed that most of those underlined passages were quotes of Dr. Samet’s students. She cared as much about her students as she cared about literature.
Samet is most successful when she combines the personal and the literary. Her allusions to characters and lines from her obviously vast reading are memorable when linked to the experiences of her students and colleagues. In particular, I expect to recall her analogy of the Ball Turret Gunner immortalized in Randall Jarrell’s 1945 poem to a colleague destroyed by an IED whenever I read Iraq war news.
Samet recognizes and develops the conflicting views of the citizen soldier and, generally, I was glad that she did not seem driven to take a point of view or tie her thoughts up with a neat bow. I very much enjoyed reading the first half of the book. Several of the later chapters in the book, dealing with religion, courage and sacrifice, however, lapsed into a stream-of-consciousness where she seemed to drift from one thought to another. These chapters suffered from the absence of a clear point of view and were much less readable than the chapters dealing with less elevated topics.