Love in Condition Yellow: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriageby Sophia Raday
Berkeley peace activist Sophia Raday never imagined she would fall in love with an Oakland police officer and major in the Army Reserve, much less marry one. Barrett is loving and loyal, but in his world a threat lies around every corner, and so he asks Sophia to stay in Condition Yellow—always aware that her life may be in danger soon. Sophia's heart-wrenching yet humorous narrative about coming to a new understanding of peace and partnership gives hope for healing the deep divisions in our country, from the front lines of a most unusual union.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
"A lovely book filled with stunning, substantial prose."—Kayt Sukel, Literary Mama
"A refreshing and penetrating look at how respect and willingness to compromise can span seemingly unbridgeable gaps in a marriage founded on differences more than commonalities."—Deborah Donovan, Booklist
"Raday has a solid sense of humor, an ear for dialogue and an eye for telling detail. . . . [She] honestly and perceptively explores the strains of a peacenik/warrior relationship."—Kirkus Reviews
"Love in Condition Yellow takes us on a true adventure: into a marriage that is both riven and strengthened by political differences that run nearly as deep as those that divide our country."—Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land
"Love in Condition Yellow tells the tale of two opposites. . . . Their relationship is unique; as their love grows closer, America drives itself further apart. . . . A work of true romance."—Midwest Book Review
"[This] story will entrance anyone who has ever wondered if love can last between two people with fundamentally contrasting beliefs."—Library Journal
- Beacon Press
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Read an Excerpt
My cousin George frowns at me. “Did you ever call
my friend Barrett? Remember I told you he went into the
Reserves and then became a cop in Oakland?”
I am instantly wary. Lowering my wineglass from my lips, I put
one hand against the textured plaster wall to steady myself. I have
prepared myself to talk about politics, about the Dayton Accords,
Rabin’s assassination, or the budget impasse. But George’s question
is going in an even more unpleasant direction, a direction that could
lead into my love life in general. I want to avoid that at all costs. In
fact, my mom had to cajole me into attending this party, assuring
me no one would notice the redness around my nose and the way
my eyelids are slightly swollen.
I stall, mumbling, “What? Barrett? Oh yeah . . .” and glance
around my cousin Molly’s house. Is there some way I can derail
this conversation from its inevitable terminus? The house is eclectically
decorated with my aunt’s modern paintings and my nieces’
artwork; the Christmas tree, strung with cranberry garlands and
popcorn, gives off its heady smell of pine. I want to chitchat and
drink my glass of wine in peace, avoiding the tangle in my chest. So
what if I am over thirty and not married? So what if I got dumped
I point out a woodblock near me, gray clouds against gold and
auburn mounds. “George, is this Taos? When did your mom do
George waves away the art, saying, “I gave you Barrett’s number,
right? Did you ever call him?”
I shake my head. Yes, George gave me Barrett’s number a while
ago, probably at another family holiday party. I’ve heard about Barrett
for over a decade now, ever since he was a cadet at West Point
with George. When Barrett was in the Ranger battalion, his apartment
was furnished with only a bed, a box as a nightstand, and a
nine-millimeter pistol. He once dragged a manhole cover home with
him after a night of drinking. Perhaps the favorite family story
involves Barrett yelling at a superior officer at Walter Reed when
George was in the hospital there with a brain tumor. As a plebe at
West Point, George had headaches and dizzy spells for weeks, but
none of the authorities took it seriously. Instead they accused him
of trying to weasel out of boxing. An inebriated Barrett expressed
the whole family’s frustration, yelling at a superior officer: “That’s
my buddy in there! The one with the brain tumor! Don’t tell me
I can’t see him! You all who thought he was faking, why should I
listen to you? You all didn’t even believe he was sick!”
I hear George saying I should just give Barrett a call. Really.
Not for a date or anything, just for fun. But I know that’s just subterfuge.
I know my cousin is doing a mental calculation of my age
and wondering what’s wrong with Sopapilla, as he affectionately
calls me. Where’s the boyfriend? Where’s the husband-to-be? My
stomach muscles catch as George pulls a pen out of his shirt pocket
and grabs a notepad from Molly’s bookshelf.
George and I spent a lot of time together about ten years ago
when he was assigned to Fort Ord as a first lieutenant. On the weekends,
George and another lieutenant would meet me and my best
friend Missey in Tahoe. We’d ski together during the day and argue
politics late into the evening. George and Jake were soldiers; Missey
and I were peace activists; Reagan was president. We argued about
the arms race and the U.S. opposition to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua
and revolutionary groups in El Salvador. But somehow we
always seemed to end up at Vietnam. I think the maddest George
ever got at me was when I bemoaned the loss of our soldiers there.
“We sent those kids over there to die, and for what? What do we say
to those mothers and wives and children? Sorry, we thought this
was a domino but it wasn’t? Oops?”
That was the first time George jabbed his finger menacingly at
me, his words flying out accompanied by small units of spit. “Don’t
you ever ( jab) ever (spit) say that a soldier’s death is a waste (jab,
jab). No soldier’s (spit) service is ever ( jab) wasted ( jab, spit).”
Our most recent major argument, a few years ago now, involved
the Gulf War. I had posted a handmade “No Blood for Oil” sign
on my car. At a dinner with George and my mom, I tried to voice
my objections to our invasion of Kuwait, my belief that we should
have tried economic sanctions first. A cigarette bouncing dangerously
from two accusatory fingers, George hissed at me, “George
Bush drew a line in the sand, you hear me? He drew a line in the
sand and backed it up! Now that’s leadership! That’s what this nation
Taking my hand off the wall, I push it out palm forward toward
George in a gentle protest, in the universal sign for “Back off, I can
handle this.” Has he forgotten who I am? What does he think—that
I’m going to discuss Gandhi’s experiments with truth with his guntoting
I may no longer get arrested at the Nevada Test Site or at divestment
protests. And it’s been years since I scaled Moffett Field’s
barbed-wire fence with a friend to spray-paint “Work for Peace”
across the “Be all you can be” recruitment billboard. But that
doesn’t mean I have given up on social justice. Okay, I’m not married.
But that doesn’t mean I’ll date just anybody. It doesn’t mean
I’ve suddenly given up all my core beliefs!
Besides, I am still hoping that Nathan—the guy I’ve been seeing
up till recently—will come around. Nathan is the kind of guy
I can picture myself marrying: men’s group attending, Robert Bly
reading, naked in the woods drumming. Nathan and I look so good
on paper. We like the outdoors, traveling, reading. We are both
seekers, do a lot of yoga, read about Tibetan Buddhism. We should
work. So why don’t we?
Just before our recent disastrous trip to Nepal, Nathan invited
me to go see Thich Nhat Hanh at the Berkeley Community Theatre.
We were both enchanted by the Vietnamese monk’s soft-spoken
simple admonitions to find peace within and let it radiate out. Present
moment, wonderful moment. When you are mindful, you see
into the true nature of things, how a flower comes from soil, from
decay. This is the sort of spirituality I expect to share with a partner.
Maybe our getting back together will be the flower that blossoms
from the garbage of our recent journey together.
Keenly aware of approaching family members, I whisper to
George that I appreciate the thought. Any normal person would
get that subtle signal that I am not interested. Look, I appreciate the
thought. But not George.
“Tell you what,” he bellows, “here’s his number. I’ll tell him to
call you, too.” Brandishing the slip of paper.
It’s time to change the subject. Pronto. I cast about desperately,
finally hearing myself say, “Hey, what do you think of the Dayton
George says, “C’mon, it’s not a date. I just want you two to
meet, that’s all.”
Maybe if I just take the damn paper, George will stop broadcasting
to the whole party that Sophia can’t find a man.
“Barrett? Are you talking about Barrett? He’s cute!” Molly’s
daughter Mallory exclaims.
“I always liked the B-man too. He’s definitely got a special
something,” Cousin Matthew adds.
Despite my embarrassment, I realize this is an odd triangulation.
Thirteen-year-old Mallory thinks Barrett’s cute and my thirty-oneyear-
old gay cousin thinks he has je ne sais quoi. Hmm.
Meet the Author
Sophia Raday lives in Berkeley, California, with her soldier/police officer husband, their two children, a bipartisan dog, and assorted firearms. A founding editor of Literary Mama, Raday has published work in anthologies and the New York Times.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I thought this book was excellent. Raday is incredibly open and honest about her most unique marriage and their navigation of their different views of the world. (I disagree with another reviewer who said the book was "one sided." It is a memoir. It's supposed to be one-sided. It was not meant to be a summary of the military wife experience - just the author's.) I came away from this much better able to relate to conservatives.
This was a good idea for a book and had a great storyline, I just could NOT get past all of the spelling mistakes! It was also very one sided. I am a military wife and she made it seem as if all military wives are obedient housekeepers who cater to their husbands every whim. Could have been tons better. Not worth the money simply because of all of the spelling mistakes. Save your $1.91!