Patches of Fire: A Story of War and Redemption

Patches of Fire: A Story of War and Redemption

by Albert L. French
     
 

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Patches of Fire is the story of a young man's encounter with a war and with deaths beyond his understanding; of his return to a country torn by racial unrest in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.; and of his painstaking efforts to defeat his inner demons and make a place for himself as a black man in white America. With a starknessSee more details below

Overview

Patches of Fire is the story of a young man's encounter with a war and with deaths beyond his understanding; of his return to a country torn by racial unrest in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.; and of his painstaking efforts to defeat his inner demons and make a place for himself as a black man in white America. With a starkness tempered by humor, French brings to life the horrors of Vietnam, and recounts in compelling detail his uneasy tenure as a newspaper photographer, his heady days as publisher of his own magazine, his confrontations with the ghostly images of Vietnam that haunted his dreams - and the sense of renewal and purpose he achieved as a novelist. The very personal story of French's trials and triumphs, Patches of Fire is also a revealing exploration of the black soldier's experience in Vietnam, the plight of the Vietnam veteran, and the redemptive power of writing.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
A former newspaper photographer and army veteran wounded in Vietnam, French turned to writing to fight his depression after a magazine he tried to start up faltered. The result was Billy, his critically acclaimed first novel, followed by Holly, another searing tale of racial tension set in the South in mid-century. Now French returns with a stunning account of his own American experience. Told with unflinching honesty, his work is the story of his return to a country torn by civil unrest and of his painstaking efforts to defeat his inner demons and make a place for himself as a black man in white America. He demonstrates here his extraordinary talent as he describes the restored sense of faith, renewal, and purpose he discovered when he became a career writer. -- Michael Coleman, Regional Library for Blind & Physically Handicapped, Montgomery, Alabama
Kirkus Reviews
A tautly introspective, impressionistic literary memoir that fills a gaping void in the literature of the American war in Vietnam by brilliantly illuminating the war and postwar experiences of an African-American veteran. French joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1963 when he was 19 years old. Two years later he went to Vietnam and experienced the war at its absolute worst. Many of French's closest friends were killed; he was severely wounded. When he recovered, French returned to his hometown of Pittsburgh, tried college, and then landed a job as a photographer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. After 13 years, he left to publish his own magazine, Pittsburgh Preview. When that magazine failed in the late '80s, French fell apart emotionally. In despair, he began writing a memoir, which eventually became this primal scream of a book. During the years it took for the memoir to be accepted for publication, French (whose first cousin is the writer John Edgar Wideman) wrote and published two well-received novels: Billy (1993) and Holly (1995); neither one has anything to do with the Vietnam War. Patches of Fire has as its core French's war-zone and post-war experiences. The author tells his story in a blistering, almost stream-of-consciousness fashion, shifting the narrative adroitly between past and present. French is less concerned with providing factual detail than with painting word pictures that bring alive his deepest emotional reactions to the memorable events in his life. The book's title, for example, refers both to the actual fires French saw after he was shot through the neck in Vietnam and to his memories about that day, when his best friend waskilled and he came close to dying in a rice paddy.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385483667
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/17/1998
Edition description:
1 ANCHOR
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.15(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.68(d)

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