Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq

Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq

4.4 15
by Jess Goodell
     
 

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In 2008, CBS' Chief Foreign Correspondent, Lara Logan, candidly speculated about the human side of the war in Iraq: "Tell me the last time you saw the body of a dead American soldier. What does that look like? Who in America knows what that looks like? Because I know what that looks like, and I feel responsible for the fact that no one else does..." Logan's query

Overview

In 2008, CBS' Chief Foreign Correspondent, Lara Logan, candidly speculated about the human side of the war in Iraq: "Tell me the last time you saw the body of a dead American soldier. What does that look like? Who in America knows what that looks like? Because I know what that looks like, and I feel responsible for the fact that no one else does..." Logan's query raised some important yet ignored questions: How did the remains of American service men and women get from the dusty roads of Fallujah to the flag-covered coffins at Dover Air Force Base? And what does the gathering of those remains tell us about the nature of modern warfare and about ourselves? These questions are the focus of Jess Goodell's story, Shade it Black: Death and After in Iraq.

Jess enlisted in the Marines immediately after graduating from high school in 2001, and in 2004 she volunteered to serve in the Marine Corps' first officially declared Mortuary Affairs unit in Iraq. Her platoon was tasked with recovering and processing the remains of fallen soldiers.

With sensitivity and insight, Jess describes her job retrieving and examining the remains of fellow soldiers lost in combat in Iraq, and the psychological intricacy of coping with their fates, as well as her own. Death assumed many forms during the war, and the challenge of maintaining one's own humanity could be difficult. Responsible for diagramming the outlines of the fallen, if a part was missing she was instructed to "shade it black." This insightful memoir also describes the difficulties faced by these Marines when they transition from a life characterized by self-sacrifice to a civilian existence marked very often by self-absorption. In sharing with us the story of her own journey, Goodell also helps us to better understand how PTSD affects female veterans. With the assistance of John Hearn, she has written one of the most unique accounts of America's current wars overseas yet seen.

REVIEWS

“Shade It Black is a powerful, direct and honest account of one Marine’s experiences in Iraq. It is a story of trauma and struggle, but also of integrity and ultimately growth. For me, the twin themes of trauma and posttraumatic growth in this book recalled Somerset Maugham’s classic, The Razor’s Edge.”
-- W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of Georgia

"In this absorbing memoir, Iraq veteran Goodell recounts her service, the brutal, sexist culture of the Marine Corps, and her struggle to adapt to the world upon her return from Iraq. . . . Her memoir is a courageous settling of accounts, and a very good read."
Publishers Weekly

“A searingly honest account of what it’s like to be a female Marine at war working the grim job of collecting the remains of the dead. Jess Goodell, the Marine, and John Hearn, her co-writer, have written this book with beauty, strength and courage. Above all, the book makes us face the truth of how war destroys us, inside and out.”
-- Helen Benedict, author of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq

“…Goodell’s verbal images are visceral, as keen as you will find in contemporary combat non fiction. As a student of co author Hearn’s in 2006, Goodell never said a word about Iraq or Mortuary Affairs. Fortunately reader, she is talking and writing.”
Military Times, August 1, 2011

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this absorbing memoir, Iraq veteran Goodell recounts her service, the brutal, sexist culture of the Marine Corps, and her struggle to adapt to the world upon her return from Iraq. After enlisting, Goodell volunteered to serve with the Marines' first declared Mortuary Attachment in Iraq's Al Anbar province, in 2004. The Mortuary Attachment platoon was responsible for doing "what had to be done but that no one wanted to know about": they "processed" the bodies of U.S. and other soldiers killed in combat, so that they could be identified and returned to their families. She describes in gruesome detail what this involved, and how it affects the soldiers who care for their comrades in this way. She rubbed up against a Marine Corp culture that includes routine indignities (calling an unfit Marine a "fat nasty" or worse), outright misogyny ("Don't even...tell me that's a woman. Get...out of my formation!"), and sexist marching cadences. Coming home, unable to gain weight or sleep or relax and unprepared for post-service life among a population that had no idea of who she was or what she had gone through, Goodell began to come apart. Her memoir is a courageous settling of accounts, and a very good read. (May)
Military Times
“…Goodell’s verbal images are visceral, as keen as you will find in contemporary combat non fiction. As a student of co author Hearn’s in 2006, Goodell never said a word about Iraq or Mortuary Affairs. Fortunately reader, she is talking and writing.”
Library Journal
01/01/2016
Goodell's marine unit was tasked with a special service: Mortuary Affairs, i.e., recovering bodies of fallen American soldiers in Iraq and preparing them to be returned home. This is not only an excellent book about the grisly, necessary aspects of war no one thinks about but a revealing look at the sexism prevalent in the armed forces.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781612000015
Publisher:
Casemate Publishers
Publication date:
06/08/2011
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
514,723
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

What People are saying about this

Keith Campbell
“Shade It Black is a powerful, direct and honest account of one Marine’s experiences in Iraq. It is a story of trauma and struggle, but also of integrity and ultimately growth. For me, the twin themes of trauma and posttraumatic growth in this book recalled Somerset Maugham’s classic, The Razor’s Edge.”--(W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of Georgia)

Meet the Author

Jessica Goodell, a native of western New York State, concluded her enlistment in the Marines and enrolled in graduate school in the fall of 2011. She has been assisted in this work by John Hearn who teaches at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York.

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Shade It Black 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Avianwoman More than 1 year ago
I am proud and deeply moved and humbled to have been allowed to enter Jess Goodell's world...one I cannot possibly comprehend or adequately feel. Very painful and beautifully sensitive this should be a required read for anyone who has allowed war to become normal. The "each chapter beginning" short report was powerful. I pray the release involved in the creation of this book has been cleansing for one of our HEROES!! I was so moved...many tears were shed as I read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really found this book interesting. I had no idea what it was like for a very young woman Marine over seas. Jess Goodell was subject to more difficult experiences than the average person has in a life time. I would not recommend it to a daughter of mine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
patcatPB More than 1 year ago
I heard an interview on NPR with this author, and immediately wanted to read more, but the book was difficult to find. This is not a "prettied up" story of military life in Iraq,but rather a brutally realistic story about real life as a Marine, a female Marine, and a member of the mortuary affairs detail. It shows the reader things that are really happening but that we don't really want to think about. It is written in a casual, easy to understand style - it feels like one is having a conversation with the author. This is the story of a group of courageous, dedicated Marines who volunteered to do a most necessary job in Iraq - a job that most of us couldn't perform for one day. This story should be read by everyone.
Deanna Cisneros More than 1 year ago
It is amazing what Jessica and her platoon had to endure....you and your platoon were a true blessing to the families involved. I also felt very much validated in my own feelings of being treated a certain way by male Marines during my four year stint.....it is good to know someone gets it....and now it has been said! Thank u!
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RosaPaglini2011 More than 1 year ago
I heard Jess Goodell speak on a radio talk show...it immediately inspired me to download this book to my nook. I finished the book in two days....An eye opener {behind the scenes} to the reality of what truly happens in any War. Must read by female and male before you're thinking about joining the military! Especially females. Tremendously powerful book. Thank you Jess for your honesty and bravery. God Bless You.
MaryEllenNC More than 1 year ago
The book is written in 30 chapters, encompassing the 190 pages. The author takes us from arrival in Iraq, through the time and experiences working as a Marine in a military establishment and environment that remains ambivalent at best in it's acceptance of soldier Marines that are of female gender, and on to the aftermath of coming back to the USA. Jess Goodell explains in terms that now make much more sense just HOW difficult re-entry into civilian life is for our veterans. I extend my deepest thanks for her and to her for writing this truly heartwarming and heartbreaking book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago