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Susan Kramer O'Neill

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Susan Kramer O'Neill, USA, was an Army nurse who served in Vietnam.  She is the author of Don't Mean Nothing: Short Stories of Vietnam.

Publishers Weekly said of Don't Mean Nothing: Short Stories of Vietnam, “It's a pleasure when a new writer has something to say and says it well. Former army nurse O'Neill's debut story collection captures the physical and psychological tensions of her 13-month tour of duty in Vietnam with refreshing maturity and a profound sense of compassion. The title, she explains in her penetratingly honest introduction, is "an all-purpose underdog rallying cry a sarcastic admixture of `cool,' comedy, irony, agony, bitterness, frustration, resignation, and despair." It addresses the need of the Americans in Vietnam to harden themselves while maintaining their humanity a battle that often seems as unwinnable as the war. O'Neill presents a portrait gallery of nurses, soldiers, and natives, grouped into three sections reflecting the three hospitals where she worked. In "The Boy from Montana," a veteran nurse recalls a casualty of war along with her na‹ve assumptions about medical conditions under fire; "Butch" details the attachment an American soldier forges with a little Vietnamese boy. "Monkey on Our Backs" follows a nurse's efforts to rid the world of her commanding officer's annoying pet, and features a bizarrely funny confession and some unexpected entrepreneurial ingenuity. In another darkly humorous tale, "Commendation," an archetypal schemer named Scully provides a cynic's guide to bureaucratic logic. While many of the images Bob Hope's USO show, the secret war in Cambodia, the music of the times are familiar, they are made fresh through the nurse's viewpoint. O'Neill's stories are both entertaining and thought-provoking, especially when she depicts feigned indifference to all kinds of pain. Focused and sympathetic, this is a valuable contribution to the mostly macho literature of Vietnam.”

Don't Mean Nothing: Short Stories of Vietnam
Susan Kramer O'Neill  More Info

The Library Journal said of Don't Mean Nothing: Short Stories of Vietnam, “Adult/High School-O'Neill served as an operating-room nurse in Vietnam from the spring of 1969 till early summer 1970. At the time, her anger and the need to forget kept her from writing about her experience. Now in middle age, she has the perspective to see the situation more clearly and offers a stark, often darkly humorous picture of her Vietnam War. Her stories are fictional accounts of her recollections from three very different hospitals in which she served. O'Neill reminds readers that while soldiers suffered the guilt of killing, the nurses felt the pangs of survivor's guilt. They faced dying and maimed soldiers, many of them in their teens, as well as Vietnamese men, women, and children caught in the war's destruction. Possibly most complex of all, as the only females in a world of battle-charged young men, they faced unrelenting, strident cravings for sex from the men with whom they served. Some women were used, abused, and even raped. These stories offer snapshots in the lives of a series of characters facing war's bloody results and dealing with it as they can-through drugs, through sex, through flaunting the rules, or even by putting a hit contract out on a monkey. Most of the players are barely beyond their teens and their attitudes and actions will strike a chord with most young adults. This is a fascinating glimpse of the Vietnam War from a very different perspective.”

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