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inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #0 of 103: (dana) Mon 13 Apr 09 10:31
    
We're very pleased to welcome our next guest to the Inkwell, The
WELL's own (burana). 

Lily Burana is a New York-based writer and editor. Since marrying a
soldier in 2002, she has published writing from the mil.wife
perspective in The New York Times, The LA Times, The Minneapolis Star,
The San Jose Mercury News, and Slate. Her latest book, I LOVE A MAN IN
UNIFORM: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles, her chronicle of
becoming an unlikely military wife, was just published by Weinstein
Books. She lives online at www.lilyburana.com. She used to have a
purple mohawk and 25 piercings. Now she has blonde highlights and a lot
of scars.

Leading the discussion is Carole Newton McManus, (carolen). 

Carole grew up in a military family, the youngest daughter of a
24-year Navy veteran. They lived in Florida, Virginia, Washington, and
California before finally settling in Hawaii. Since 1997, Carole has
managed some of the largest online communities on the Web, including
BabyCenter, E*TRADE, and the 100,000,000 member Yahoo! Groups
community.  She is a regular contributor to the Kid Scientist blog at
http://kidscientist.com, which she writes with her husband (jeffreyp)
and daughter Celeste.

Welcome! 
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #1 of 103: life hurts. science is fun! (carolen) Tue 14 Apr 09 19:54
    
Lily, congrats on all the good notices and reviews. I know I was not the 
only one who was looking forward to "I Love a Man in Uniform" after being 
blown away by your first memoir, "Strip City". 

"I Love a Man in Uniform" is so many things, but first and foremost it is 
a love letter to your husband Mike. It was terrifically brave of you to 
write about your own struggle with PTSD, but you also write about Mike's 
struggle with PTSD, as well as your successful fight to save your 
marriage. What was Mike's reaction when you told him you wanted to write 
about it all?
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #2 of 103: Lily Burana (burana) Wed 15 Apr 09 04:46
    


Hi Carole, and everyone! Thanks so much.

There's very little awareness about how post-traumatic stress disorder
manifests itself, and how it can very from person to person due to the type
of traumatic event that caused it, the person its affecting, and other
factors, so it seemed important to write about it, since it was very
different for Mike and I.

He was all over the idea, actually. He doesn't particularly care for the
limelight himself, but he's always maintained that he's proud to be married
to me and that anyone who has a problem with us being together can take a
flying leap. At first, I myself wasn't so sure what shape the book was going
to take--would it be lighthearted, sassy topical essays? Would it be more of
a "how-to" guide for newbie Army wives? At one point, I'd even considered
fiction. Given how touchy certain people in the military world are about
having our "secrets" told (mind you, I don't really think military families
have "secrets" of which the civilian world is ignorant...), fiction might
have been a safer choice.

But once the vision of the book firmed into something that would go into
some pretty dark, very real places, I had to really think about whether or
not that was something *I* could handle. Mike's tougher than rebar--I'm the
one with the emotional constitution of marshmallow fluff. I let him vet
everything I had written about us, and once he gave me the thumb's up, I
turned it over to the editor.
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #3 of 103: lmc (lmc) Wed 15 Apr 09 10:33
    
lily, i loved the book.  it taught me a lot about military life which
was very enlightening.  mostly, i was hugely impressed at your taking
the time and putting in the effort to work through and understand the
PTSD and find your way back to your marriage.  it was a very moving
book.
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #4 of 103: (dana) Wed 15 Apr 09 12:22
    
(Note: Offsite readers with questions or comments may have them added
 to this conversation by emailing them to inkwell@well.com -- please
 include "I Love a Man in Uniform" in the subject line.)
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #5 of 103: Amy Keyishian (superamyk) Wed 15 Apr 09 12:31
    
Lily, the book is such a roller-coaster ride. Just when you think
you've gotten through one crisis, another rolls in -- so unexpected and
compelling, especially since I've had similarly outrageous times in my
life. It's so relatable.

At one point you talk about being the "boss's wife," and how Mike's
being in charge of 20 or so people puts you in a position of authority.
How does this book impact your role as "boss's wife?" Has anyone
mentioned it to you at West Point? 
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #6 of 103: Mrs. Bigby Hind (jessica) Wed 15 Apr 09 14:03
    
Lily Burana, you are the last person I would describe as having the
emotional constitution of marshmallow fluff! And of course that is due in
very large part to the courageous work you did that you chronicle so
movingly here.

What has been the reception so far to the book among military-world friends,
and more generally the military family community?
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #7 of 103: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 15 Apr 09 14:26
    

Lily, I, for one, am very glad that you wrote this as a memoir instead of 
fiction.  I loved the memoir Strip City, but I found it difficult to 
connect with Try. When you write about yourself, when you are telling your 
truths about yourself as you did in this book, your writing is so 
compelling and genuine that it's hard not to be swept up in your story.  I 
could not put the book down until I knew everything, and when it was over, 
I wanted to know what happened next.

Because this book covers such different and even more deeply personal
ground than your previous books, what kind of feedback have you had from
your existing fans?  

What kind of feedback have you had from people who knew you already but
didn't know about your struggles with PTSD?  Are they uncomfortable?  
Fascinated?  Wanting to change the subject?
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #8 of 103: Amy Keyishian (superamyk) Wed 15 Apr 09 15:06
    
Also, what was your mom's reaction to your revelation about the
babysitter? How did you broach that with her, and how did she feel
about your including it here?
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #9 of 103: tub of homogenous filth (tpy) Thu 16 Apr 09 07:58
    

i'm going to shut up until lily has a chance to respond to the upthread 
questions because i dont want her to be overwhelmed but let me add my 
voice to the chorus of people who found your story moving, compelling, and 
very very engaging. 
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #10 of 103: life hurts. science is fun! (carolen) Thu 16 Apr 09 08:54
    
Hear, hear!
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #11 of 103: Lily Burana (burana) Thu 16 Apr 09 09:17
    


<Burana comes charging in from stage left, crashing into the desk, knocking
over the chair, sending the garbage can and sheaves of paper flying around
the room>


Hi, hi, hi, everyone! What a nice, rollicking start! <dusting chalk dust off
of tweed jacket, adjusting Absent-minded Professor glasses>

Let's get started with the replies! Be right back! <grabbing briefcase and
rubber chicken and dashing off stage right, leaving a cloud of chalk dust
behind>
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #12 of 103: Lily Burana (burana) Thu 16 Apr 09 09:25
    


>>>lily, i loved the book.  it taught me a lot about military life which
 was very enlightening.  mostly, i was hugely impressed at your taking
 the time and putting in the effort to work through and understand the
 PTSD and find your way back to your marriage.  it was a very moving
 book.

>>I can't thank you enough for this praise! All a memoirists wants to do is
move people, ya know? Even if you're Tucker Max and you just want to "move"
people to the can to yak at your essential grossness. It's a trait we all
share.

We're in a limbo state where we hear a lot in the media about PTSD, but it
remains a mystery to many. So I felt some obligation to just throw open the
windows and let light shine on it. We have an image of the aggrieved PTSD
sufferer screaming in a bell tower with an AK-47 or clinging to a bottle--
and while some people do end up in those extreme depths of visible
suffering, I'd hazard that most people (mind you, IANAS = AM NOT A
STATISTICIAN!) with PTSD are duking it out in silence. I know I sure was--I
didn't really have a name for what was happening to me, just that certain
situations completely freaked me out. And that my husband was different when
he came home from his deployment. It was not easy to write, but it felt
necessary.
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #13 of 103: Lily Burana (burana) Thu 16 Apr 09 09:26
    


 >>>(Note: Offsite readers with questions or comments may have them added
  to this conversation by emailing them to inkwell@well.com -- please
  include "I Love a Man in Uniform" in the subject line.)

YEAH! Write in, write in!

This is the one venue where you can address me directly and not be lost in
the shuffle of a) facebook status updates or b) my email queue!
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #14 of 103: Lily Burana (burana) Thu 16 Apr 09 10:01
    


Wow, lots of interest in the response to the book!

>> Because this book covers such different and even more deeply personal
 ground than your previous books, what kind of feedback have you had from
 your existing fans?

 >> What kind of feedback have you had from people who knew you already but
 didn't know about your struggles with PTSD?  Are they uncomfortable?
 Fascinated?  Wanting to change the subject?

 >> What was your mom's reaction to your revelation about the
 babysitter? How did you broach that with her, and how did she feel
 about your including it here?

 >> At one point you talk about being the "boss's wife," and how Mike's
 being in charge of 20 or so people puts you in a position of authority.
 How does this book impact your role as "boss's wife?" Has anyone
 mentioned it to you at West Point?

>> What has been the reception so far to the book among military-world
friends,
 and more generally the military family community?

Since the book was only released yesterday, the jury is still largely out--
even among my family!

I can say, however, that the initial response from military wives has blown
my mind--in a good way. Hearing "YOU GO, GIRL" from wives has been awesome--
wives who could not be further from me on the political spectrum, wives
whose husbands have been in far longer than mine, and wives who are
themselves soldiers. It's been an incredible reward and I feel
blessed.There's not much out there beyond the "how-to" military wife books,
so I was definitely piloting into uncharted waters, which is simultaneously
thrilling and terrifying. I had a lot of anxiety (well, HAVE a lot of
anxiety, if I may be honest) about being so candid--you just never know if
the truth is going to set you free, or find you parked in the corner with a
dunce cap on your head. Or, you know, egg on your face.

I was emboldened by this bit of writing by SOME GUY named JON CARROLL:

        "A writer -- a good one, anyway -- is always in danger of getting
run out of town or denounced from the pulpit or charged with self-indulgence
or willful obscurantism or just plain rudeness.
Very few people actually like that experience. Most people want love and
approval -- this is not exactly a secret. Why air dirty laundry? Because
dirty laundry doesn't get cleaner sitting in a basket.

And because a story needs to be told. All writers start out as readers; all
writers have read stories that spoke to them, that opened worlds, that
dissected emotions, that explained relationships, that showed them other
ways of being. Writers start out being drunk on someone else's words; they
spend their lives trying to create equally potent brews.

.... Writing is not just a game they play in New York, although, of course,
it's that, too. Writing is about the stories we tell ourselves in order to
live. Someone has to tell those stories. The telling is always risky."


It's a fine line to walk when writing about a community that is, in many
ways, off the grid. The military community is generally pretty conservative,
that is to say, there's a certain discretion when talking about military
life with non-military people. I feel it stems from a fear of being
misunderstood or misrepresented. And some people equate loyalty with
silence, as if dropping the "It's all good here under the ol' stars and
stripes" posture will somehow, I don't know, *break* the military or
something! I know the military--and military families--are stronger than
that. And to feel besieged by people's natural curiosity is too cynical a
take on things--I believe that civilians welcome information about how
military families work. Their curiosity is not sinister. People are
supportive and they just wanna know the deal--and often, they find "our"
problems relatable. And my book is hardly all about Da Problems. There's
lots of joy and pride in there. And scandalous walrus stories. (For the
record: The walrus started it!!!!)

I've complained plenty about civilians not being aware of the concerns of
military families. I realized that perhaps I should stop complaining and do
my part to reverse the problem.

While I appreciate the l-u-v that many wives have shown me so far, I'm not
going to hit that "universally popular" mark, it appears. A few little
birdies have told me that the book is NOT going over well with some wives.
They feel I am a) not qualified to write about being an Army wife (a
complaint complicated by the fact that I wrote about being a NEW Army wife--
the qualifications for which I handily meet even by the strictest
definition) b) I am "telling the Army's secrets" (alas, the feature well of
every major newspaper has scooped me on every issue I cover. And so did many
Army newspapers.) and c) you know, I used to be a stripper, therefore, I am
a trashy she-devil and should be denied access to paper, laptops, and
printer ink.
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #15 of 103: uber-muso hipster hyperbole (pjm) Thu 16 Apr 09 10:08
    
"Their curiosity is not sinister."

This is important to point out.  Too many people these days think that
wanting to know things is weird or bad.  Knowing things is good. 
There, I said it.


BTW, some of my best friends are trashy she-devils.
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #16 of 103: Lily Burana (burana) Thu 16 Apr 09 10:15
    


Party on, dearheart. Party ON!

Today's Onion Dip:

http://tinyurl.com/coj64k

"I'm Not One Of Those Insecure Generals Who Needs To Win A Lot Of Battles"
An Op-Ed Piece from The Onion!
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #17 of 103: wanked rambly (mim) Thu 16 Apr 09 13:39
    

Lily, I too loved the book, and it actually had me thinking about my
brother-in-law and his wife and kids (he's in the Air Force, currently in
Anchorage, AK after a 3 yr stint in Honolulu, HI (PS guess which place was
a more enticing destination to visit them?) and although I always was
amazed and awed by Jenny's ability to deal with his logn absences,
especially w/2 young kids, your book made me think about their lives and
relationship in fresh ways, and be even more imrpessed with her, as well
as understand a little more of the inner workings of military life.

I also am curious to hear when you get to answering about your mom's 
reaction to the babysitter revelations, and whether she was worried her 
own friends and acquaintances would read the book and judge her harshly. 
Memoir is such a tricky genre to write when you have to worry about people 
in it as characters also being people in your real life you care about.
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #18 of 103: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Thu 16 Apr 09 14:34
    
Lily, I'm going to save my questions, too, so as not to pile on, but I
will just say that you have an uncanny knack for making me grin
through tears. Seriously, the part of the book where you were writing
about PTSD was so hard for me to read, for lots of reasons, that I kept
thinking "I should put this down now and do something else for a
while," -- but then you'd drop some gem like "Cut me and I bled Rescue
Remedy," and I would crack up and keep reading. Which is how I found
myself finishing the book at 2am, having read it non-stop from start to
end.
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #19 of 103: Mary Elizabeth Williams (marybeth) Thu 16 Apr 09 14:45
    

Lily, kudos on such a beautiful, funny, amazing book. I'm absolutely in awe
of you.

I'd love to know how the experience of writing a second memoir was different
from the first. Did you feel a different connection to the work this time?
Did you avoid some of those first time pitfalls or discover new ones? Were
there things that really surprised you this time?
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #20 of 103: Lily Burana (burana) Fri 17 Apr 09 08:39
    


Thanks for the kudos, all. It is a great thing to wake up to!



         >>>>I'd love to know how the experience of writing a second memoir
was different
        from the first. Did you feel a different connection to the work this
time?
        Did you avoid some of those first time pitfalls or discover new
ones? Were
        there things that really surprised you this time?

I never envisioned myself as a serial memoirist, I must say. But I easily
got as many questions about being an Army wife as I ever did about being a
stripper--though they were decidedly less prurient (mostly)--so after a
number of years, I got the hint that the interest was there. In a way, I see
myself more as a very confessional travel writer than as a memoirist,
because I make an effort to bring readers into a totally different culture,
with its own language, rules, traditions, taboos and dress. Really, the only
thing missing is a currency converter and a couple maps. Here's a tip,
though: In the sex industry, the currency is youth. In the Army family
culture, it's quality homemade baked goods. A good cupcake will net you more
in the Army 'hood than a carton of Camels in a maximum security prison.

The I LOVE A MAN IN UNIFORM experience was remarkably different from STRIP
CITY. First of all, ILAMU is my third book, and STRIP CITY my first. It's
kind of like the difference between having your third puppy and your first.
With your first puppy, you're afraid that if you make one mistake, you'll
have a mailman-mauling killer on your hands. With the third, you're more
likely to be self-forgiving as far as craft, and just getting the words on
the page. You feed the puppy, take it for walks, train it a bit each day,
and you realize that if you do your due diligence, the mailman will live to
see another day. It really was a matter of just chilling the F out and
remembering to try to have a life instead of obsessing over the book every
second, and picking apart each sentence. Not that I didn't obsess, but I
obsessed while taking walks and going to the movies instead of obsessing
while locked in a cave with my laptop.

With ILAMU, I was writing about a more supported, less stigmatized world, so
in that respect, I felt more free. Like, I didn't have to prove to the world
that I was a decent person, or a thinking, feeling person. Sex workers are
always behind the 8-ball, as far as suppositions of character and intellect
go, and it was easier to write without that threat of suspicion and
hostility because you can hardly call Army Wife a stigmatized role in this
society. I was much more relaxed. And I enjoyed every second of that aspect.

Conversely, I felt more pressure to "get it right." I understand that
there's no right and wrong way to write about your own life, but there's so
little writing by military wives that goes beyond instructional and
etiquette guides, and there were a lot of facts and statistics to balance
along with the True! Tales! Of! Alt.Army Wife! So I put a ton of pressure on
myself as far as *what* to include. Balance was key: The awesome and the
annoying, the kooky and the serious, the reportin' and the feelin'. The
military is serious business--and I do take it seriously--and in a life
where men and women take an oath to protect and defend, there's a tendency
(myself included!) to be protective and defensive. I knew there were bound
to be tough critics. And I care how the Army, and Army wives, are perceived.
Not to the point where I'm willing to write PR copy for the Army life,
though--but since I had that struggle of what's good and what's not-so-good,
I just folded that struggle into the book itself.

So, I now have a new memoirist rule of thumb: If you can't solve something,
make the puzzling into part of the story. Because that puzzling business has
turned out to be the parts that people find most relatable. The function of
memoir is not to SOLVE life but to SHOW life. In all its awesome,
terrifying, itchy, salty, dull as doing the laundry & magical unicorn-and-
leprechaun complexity.

Truthfully, what surprised me most was the realization of how much I care
about the Army and the people to whom it has introduced me. After all the
dismantling of the PTSD robot, I feel a lot more than I used to. I'm not as
wadded up inside this cage of snarky anger and "Oh yeah?! Well, if you don't
like me, then I don't like you, either!" Travis Bickle has left the
building.
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #21 of 103: Travis Bickle has left the building. (divinea) Fri 17 Apr 09 08:57
    
Reading along here and at home with interest, Lily. And: TFTP. 
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #22 of 103: Lily Burana (burana) Fri 17 Apr 09 09:07
    


I wonder what he's doing! Perhaps a soothing herbal pedicure. Or getting his
chakras balanced. Were they doing that in the Taxi Driver era?
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #23 of 103: Travis Bickle has left the building. (divinea) Fri 17 Apr 09 09:11
    
Sure they did, but that mojo didn't work on everybody. 
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #24 of 103: Lily Burana (burana) Fri 17 Apr 09 09:31
    


Maybe he just went to Gray's Papaya!

How's everyone doing with the bombshell known as The Torture Memos hitting
the news?
  
inkwell.vue.351 : Lily Burana, "I Love a Man in Uniform"
permalink #25 of 103: Amy Keyishian (superamyk) Fri 17 Apr 09 10:59
    
I like that new memoirist rule of thumb. Making the puzzling part of
the story. Makes so much sense. 
  

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