Tim O'Brein's short story collection, The Things They Carried, details the lives of young men fighting during Vietnam. The stories merge sometimes, and are often viscerally painful to read. The emotional journeys of some men are followed, and the story is quite intimate, with the things they carried being metaphorical abstractions, often talismans.
It's easy to see why The Things They Carried would be constantly challenged. The book is a gut-hurting raw collection of stories -- there is death, language, immorality. But such is the stuff of war. I found this book to be very haunting and real. I've read bits and pieces before, of course, as have a lot of young people since 1990 who have gone through school systems where it went unchallenged. While the book is about Vietnam, I think it's equally accessible to readers who are more familiar with our current wars as well, while at the same time being appealing precisely because it connects young readers with the Vietnam war with which they are not as intimately familiar (wow, awkward sentence there!). The book will appeal to adults just as much, if not more-so, than teens; while it's taught in school, it is certainly not child's play.
"An acutely painful reading experience, this collection should be read as a book and not a mere selection of stories reprinted from magazines. Not since Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five (LJ 3/1/69) has the American soldier been portrayed with such poignance and sincerity" (Library Journal, 1990).
"Only a handful of novels and short stories have managed to clarify, in any lasting way, the meaning of the war in Vietnam for America and for the soldiers who served there. With 'The Things They Carried,' Tim O'Brien adds his second title to the short list of essential fiction about Vietnam. As he did in his novel 'Going After Cacciato' (1978), which won a National Book Award, he captures the war's pulsating rhythms and nerve-racking dangers. But he goes much further. By moving beyond the horror of the fighting to examine with sensitivity and insight the nature of courage and fear, by questioning the role that imagination plays in helping to form our memories and our own versions of truth, he places 'The Things They Carried' high up on the list of best fiction about any war" (New York Times Book Review, 1990).
This book along with others such as War by Sebastian Junger would make an excellent talk about war literature, along with some of O'Brien's other work like If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home.
Annichiarico, M. M. (1990). The Things They Carried (Book). Library Journal, 115(3), 212.
O'Brien, T. (1990) The things they carried. New York: Houghton Mifflin
Robert R., H., & Robert R. Harris is an editor of The Book, R. w. (1990). TOO EMBARRASSED NOT TO KILL. New York Times Book Review, 8.