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  1. Hello Group,
    I hope you all have had a great semester and have been enjoying Girl at War thus far! My name is Vanessa Diaz. I am a senior at USCB this year, expecting to graduate in 2022 with a degree in both Business: Accounting and English: Professional Writing. As an English major, I have done a fair share of literary analysis which I find to be super fun, especially with a novel such as this one.

    There are just so many things to talk about with this book that it was hard for me to choose. I am going to focus on the end of chapter four, after the presidential palace was rocketed. Ana says, “War quickly became our favorite game and soon we had given up the park altogether” (50). Though many children nowadays play games involving violence, this situation is a very different one. In this scene, children begin to normalize war surrounding them. To me, this marks a sort of loss of innocence. Instead of choosing the playground, where kids are expected to play, and playing tag or imitating their parents jobs (playing doctor or teacher), as we often see with children, children are choosing to imitate guns, killing, and death behind sandbags that were put up for their protection. This may be seen as harmless as children do not recognize how gruesome and serious war can be, and do not understand the actualities of war; they are only imitating what they see. However, this scene is important because, though it may not seem like it, the way children play is often political. What I mean by this is that this scene shows how the environment children grow up in affects how they behave, and their beliefs, values, and attitudes. This is evident when in the same paragraphs she says, “If we could convince enough people to be Serbs we’d play teams” (50). The fact that they would have to convince people to be a certain nationality, shows that being Serbian was seen as less desirable, even though the children had no idea why. The only reason they believe this was because of what adults around them were saying. This game then further separates the nationalities and fills children’s minds with racist values, as we already began to see in chapter one, when one of Ana’s classmates says, “‘Maybe he went back to Serbia, where he belongs’” (12). This belief had to come from the child’s parents as Ana identifies that in school they are taught pan-Slovic slogans such as “Bratstvo i Jedinstvo” meaning brotherhood and unity (9).

    In a later chapter, as Ana observes children playing in Sarajevo, she realizes that the games she plays at home (playing war) might not be as normal as she thought it was. What do you guys think of this? Is playing war normal? Do you think playing war was avoidable in her current situation? Do you agree that playing war has political implications as I have pointed out in the previous paragraph? I am excited to hear all your thoughts.

    Best,
    Vanessa Diaz
    World Lit

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Vanessa!
      Great post! I haven’t written my response yet but I was perusing the group blog before I gathered my talking points. I’d like to take the time to weigh in with my opinion on your questions.
      So, is playing war avoidable in her situation? So when you wrote “children begin to normalize war surrounding them”, I think that’s the answer to your question. Little story here, I live near a playground on Port Royal and one of my after work activities is to take my dogs for a walk around the park before I head in for the night. Well, about 2 weeks ago I noticed a group (probably 4-6) kids that couldn’t be over the age of 10 playing a game of “protest” where some of them appeared to be protestors and some appeared to be cops. My mind was absolutely blown. I had to circle around the park a few times because I couldn’t believe what I saw. I believe this to be some what of a subconscious coping mechanism. Also, they’re kids so anything severe can be made into a game. This through my head into a fit, thinking back to the relevant political climate when I was a kid and the games that we played that mimicked that climate (early 90s). A lot of our “war games” were based around soviets and the U.S. In my opinion, children play these games because they cannot properly process the severity or even the reality of what’s happening around them. Immersing in a role that takes them outside their contrasting life style is fun. We continue to do this as adults as we find our own immersions in things like fantasy novels, cinematic universes with multiple entangled stories, and television shows that peak our interest.

      As far as ” A Girl at War”, I realized around pg 26 that a child’s pureness of thinking is actually quite a bit more rational than the complex and muddled thought process that adults use in the context of this book. Ana asks her father if he will have to be in the army one day. His response is that he’s embarrassed that he can’t be a “real solider” because of his depth perception, stating that he could be a radio operator or a mechanic to which Ana replies with “That’s not embarrassing / you can’t help it”. This exchange of dialogue shows that her young purely reactive thought process was way more effective at making her father be at ease than the complex logic and the duality of choices that adults have to see themselves through.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi group!
    This semester is a little wacky but I’m glad we are able to communicate here to have a small sense of normalcy (whatever that is, these days). I’m a USCB Junior and a biology major that transferred from TCL last semester. I’m an Air Force veteran that is currently working towards applying to Tufts University (Massachusetts) or The University of Georgia to pursue a career of becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Between my clinical hours, classes, and volunteering at animal shelters, my plate is very full but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

    For Girl at War, I found it so much more digestible using an audio book while reading along and citing through my paperback. If you have the 13 dollars to spare getting the audiobook, I highly suggest it. The narrator, Julia Whelan, does a great job voicing characters and brings the text to life!

    So on to my thoughts. This book is a first person narration through the eyes of a 10 year old girl living through some of the most turbulent times. Understanding that she sees things a bit simpler than as an adult, the book becomes more fun to read because deciphering a young girl’s thought process of what she’s living through as an adult adds a certain purity and blissful ignorance to the circumstances. The first line of the book is “The war in Zagreb began over a pack of cigarettes.” I’m sure you were all like me in thinking “what crazy people start wars over cigarettes?” but then you realize a few pages later that Ana says this because her first indoctrination into the war came when she ran to the store to get her father cigarettes and the clerk, who she has bought cigarettes from regularly, ask her “Croatian or Serbian cigarettes?” When she couldn’t answer the nationality of the brand of cigarettes that her father smoked, the clerk ignored her and she went home empty handed. It was after this I realized that the war didn’t officially start over cigarettes, that’s when the war started for HER.

    Another thought I would like to put out there is the bedtime story her father told her about Stribor’s Forest and if it has any relation to what’s happening in their real life. I struggled with finding a true comparison to what I’ve read so far. I don’t like to think I have to chalk it up as her father just trying to pleasantly distract her from what happening. I think MAYBE that the snake who was disguised as a beautiful woman could be an allegory for communism from the east? The young man she deceives could be Serbia and the step-mother could be considered Croatia since the snake treated the mother-in-law badly. It doesn’t 100% check out but I’m still trying to digest it correctly.

    So some questions. What are other moments in Part I that Ana had some simplified ideological moments? What did you interpret during the scene where her father was telling her the story of Stribor’s Forest (35-36)?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Everyone,
    My name is Zharia McFadden, Freshmen at USCB (class of 2024). I am majoring in Communications; my academic interest mostly involves courses that build my background with learning how to speak effectively in front of individuals, learning aspects, and skills to becoming a better speaker for my career. One day, I hope to become either a Sports P.R. or doing something that involves being on a big platform (like television or radio). I know this sounds so cliché nowadays, but I am looking to start a YouTube Channel soon, so that can assist my speaking on camera and being interactive with my life.
    When focusing on Chapter 1, Part 1 Ana seems to “lose” but new to the changes that were made in the place she visited every summer. The moment where she finds challenges but easily picks on the mistake, she makes is the moment where she didn’t know which cigarettes to choose from and was dismissed by the cashier. The countries of Croatia and Serbia aren’t necessarily at war between each other, even though in a 10-year-old mindset, that was ultimate defeat of not knowing the specific cigarettes she was supposed to grab. This moment describes the title of the book in my opinion, because she faces troubles with understanding concepts that are all new to her because of the incident with the cigarettes.
    Ana is at war with herself trying to understand the different changes that are happening in her surrounding areas. For example; the cigarettes and when she asks about which flag represents her side. There are many rules and difference of actions done by individuals close to Ana such when her best friend’s dad cut off his beard because of more religious reasonings. Ana not being able to understand rules seem like it frustrates her family (mostly her dad), she questions a lot of things that are occurring out of curiosity and wanting to understand like everyone else.
    I can only imagine the pain of what Ana was experiencing when the soldiers harmed her father, her mother was scared, but so was everyone else. Ana states that she left her jacket in the car, but she didn’t feel cold. She felt fear, she was worried about being beaten, car being taken away and the fact they could be sent away to camps. Being that young with going through traumatic experiences stick with you for the entirety of your life. Her childhood affected her in more ways than a 10-year-old can imagine.
    Reading perspective like these often makes you think of the tense the story is told in but then there is always a little bit of back and forth between present and past of the story the author is telling.
    Thank you,
    Zharia McFadden

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Happy Thursday!
    So here’s my second blog post.
    Zharia, you mention that “Being that young with going through traumatic experiences stick with you for the entirety of your life. Her childhood affected her in more ways than a 10-year-old can imagine.” I entirely agree! There’s a part in the book where Ana gives money to refugees and her stomach begins to twist. She later finds out that feeling is “survivor’s guilt”. What I’m beginning to piece together is that Ana is telling this story as it’s something that happened in the past, like a memoir. So I think as the book goes along we are going to see more of these nuances that indicate that she has processed through her trauma as an adult, possibly.
    Vanessa, you mention that “This is evident when in the same paragraphs she says, “If we could convince enough people to be Serbs we’d play teams” and you tied it into nationality. I completely agree! Since this part of the story takes place in Zagreb, I’m sure most of the children consider themselves Croatian. I figure kids (even some adults) like to align themselves with what they identify as.
    Since this book takes place right before Yugoslavia was torn into multiple countries, I believe it’s trying to indicate to us the start of dividing nationalism between regions not known yet as individual countries.
    Andrew Starmer
    World Lit
    10/1/2020 11:01AM

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  5. (to Andrews comment under my original comment)

    Andrew,

    That’s so crazy. I would’ve never thought protesting would become a children’s game. In that case, I agree that it is definitely a subconscious coping mechanism; that’s a great point. I never really played games similar to those, or at least don’t recall, so I didn’t really think of that.

    In addition, I agree with your point about the pureness of children’s thinking being more rational than the adults in the context of this book. However, children’s logic in this novel may only seem more rational because they do not know all of the other implications and emotions that adults experience. This proves to be a benefit in the context of the story, but that is definitely not always the case. Also, though children’s thought process is often viewed as pure and simple, I think their thought process is more complex than we assume which is why they so often, imitate the lives of the adults around them (i.e. playing war/playing protest). My point being they understand more than we give them credit for.

    Respectfully,
    Vanessa Diaz
    World Lit

    Hello Zharia,

    I really liked how you focused on the perspective of the novel and how traumatizing the plot points can be for someone of the narrator’s age. I talk more about perspective in my second letter, but I definitely agree that Ana is experiencing a war within herself as she is forced to cope with all of the changes that the Yugoslavian war has brought upon her life. This alone can traumatize children, but still Ana experiences way worse– the gruesome murder of her parents. The point you make about the trauma Ana faces at such a young age is especially important for the beginning of Part Two. In Part Two we see Ana fighting PTSD in situations like the Fourth of July, her nightmares, and the view of the forest. This PTSD greatly affects her relationships, especially with her boyfriend Brian.

    Kind Regards,
    Vanessa Diaz
    World Lit

    (To Andrews original comment)

    Hi again Andrew,

    I thought the way you attached the countries/war to the characters in the Stribors Forest Tale was super interesting; I did not interpret the tale in this way. I do not think the characters necessarily represent the countries. I think the tale’s purpose was really about its moral: “sometimes hard things are worth the trouble” (pg.39). Ana’s father tells her this story because on their way back from the doctor’s appointment, the person checking their papers asked them if they were sure they wanted to go back, and this angered him because of his great nationalism and pride. I think he wanted to prove to Ana that they should stay in Croatia rather than leave because it was their country and it was going to be worth it in the long run. He did not want her to wish they lived somewhere else or think they could have a better life somewhere else because Croatia was their home.

    Best,
    Vanessa Diaz
    World Lit

    Like

  6. Hello Group,
    I hope everyone is keeping a semblance of a schedule this year. I apologize for being very late on these blog posts. My name is Robert-Nickell Bligen and I am on campus at USCB. I am a junior this year and I major in English at the moment. I have been doing a fair number of analysis’s this semester which now goes to Girl at War.
    One thing I wanted to focus on was when the palace was burned in chapter 4 and Ana’s description of what she experienced at that time. She said it was not anxiety or excitement anymore but true fear. This is a very real moment that I feel is something that many people do not like to share. Well, less they don’t like to share but more so how do they explain it. It’s a very common feeling to become excited over events that are rumored to happen or you’re preparing just in case it happens. For example, take Tornado drills that people have to do at school. I’m sure some people feel that excitement or anxiety when doing those drills or even get a pang of excitement when a tornado warning blares on the radio. I have heard stories from soldiers where they say they get excited whenever they are about to go to battle or when gunfire goes off. In Ana’s case, this faded as the fear settled in, which is understandable given the circumstances they were going through.

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    1. I think it’s really interesting and 100% factual that you point out some people’s anxiety being conveyed through excitement. I think in some cases, especially for soldiers, that the anxiety-excitement comes from conditioning and training for that moment but it also applies to people caught off guard by something they had no inclination was going to happen. I think that particular feeling of excitement can happen for multiple reasons in our psyche. Some can view it as a change in their mundane lifestyle, while others view it as an excitement because they’ve spent so much time conditioning for that change to happen. Reading this book, I’ve caught myself doing a lot of comparisons between myself and the content that’s written. Take Covid for example, for me the prospect of breaking up my routine life and the world changing before our eyes is indeed, exciting. However, once I was able to let it sink in that things do not seem like they are going back to the way things were breeds a different kind of anxiety that makes me miss my routine mundane life. I’d like to think that this feeling is universal no matter what subject it’s about.

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  7. Greetings group,
    For some reason the site won’t let me type in the box and now my name is messed up.
    Zharia, you said that Ana was at war with herself trying to understand the changes that were going on around her. And also that there are different rules and actions that people are doing that are close to her. I wholeheartedly agree and I find that in these type of situations it is easy to find yourself wondering how you really feel and what you want to do, even if they may not be as intense as Ana’s situation. It’s not her fault since she’s just trying to understand and of course it frustrates the people around her. Especially her father as you say, which is funny since it’s usually the fathers that are like that in media if you get what I mean. This just helps me understand a little more about what people and especially kids go through in situations like these, and even then can you ever truly understand unless you went through it yourself?

    Hope everything is going well,
    Robert-Nickell Bligen
    World Lit

    Hello Andrew,
    I just wanted to quickly look at what you said about Ana’s indoctrination to the war being with the cigarettes. And that her being turned down was when the war started for her. I really do like that, and I can really see the meaning of that.

    Hope all is well,
    Robert-Nickell Bligen
    World Lit

    Like

  8. So here’s the final blog post for me!

    We were asked to find either a song or make an illustration depicting the characters or plot of the story and since I’m not much of an artist, I scoured the internet looking for a a song that would incapsulate what we’ve read so far. I think I found that with the song War Child by The Cranberries. It’s funny because The Cranberries are one my favorite musical artists and I spent about 2 hours looking for something that I thought was meaningful enough to post and there it was, right under my nose. Right at the end of Part I we witness Ana’s parent’s being killed by soldiers and where I left off in my reading, her indoctrination into becoming a child solider is pretty evident. There are plenty of great lines that you can pull from this song that would work well with the plot of the story so far, my favorite is the chorus:

    War child
    Victim of political pride
    Plant the seed, territorial greed
    Mind, the war child
    We should mind, the war child

    To me, this is pretty straight forward to the point about using children as soldiers in a war. There’s no way around the fact that nationalism and territorial greed put a thick layer of fog in some people’s mind allowing them to look over the fact that innocent children are forced to make a choice. To kill or be killed.

    Some of you might be further in the reading than I am, I contribute that to my extended clinical hours at the vet office to make up for the time lost during the pandemic so I’m doing my best to keep up.

    Andrew Starmer
    World Lit

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello Group!
        Vanessa Diaz,
        Your blog post really gave me some insight when I began reading the post and the book. I love the reference of quotes you used and detailed explanations because I was really struggling to even begin reading the book. After reading the post and the book, the book came full fledge and easier to understand. I love reading and collaborating with other people because it makes me feel a sense of relatability.

        Andrew,
        I believe I have already responded to your post but if not, I loved the fact that you have the online audio version of the book. Hearing can cause the reader to imagine and really picture how things are for the author. You really gave me insight on how the perspective is told from 3rd person and that made me realize that the story is told from herself but from a younger stage of her life. I referenced and agree with the perspective of how the “war” started with the incident of the cigarettes. Also, I feel like she’s having a hard time really understanding the new rules for everything that is occurring around her.

        Robert,
        I can totally understand and agree with your point on the excitement turning into fear, your example is really good. It’s like when schools have students prepare for a school shooting drill and then it finally happens unexpectedly then it feels like you have no clue on what to do. It’s like you can be prepared or make plans for how you think something is going to go but then it actually happens, and you don’t even know how to react, other than being in fear.

        Thank you all,
        Zharia McFadden

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello Group,
    This is my final blogpost.
    The representation of the Girl at War I have is a song called Weight of the World. The reason I chose this song is because I feel it has a sort of bleak tone and yet with hope still carved within it. I feel Girl at War is the same way with its plot and tone of the overall story. The song has a main character as well as it’s for a game called Nier Automata, and I feel the character 2B and Ana has some similarities as well. Notably the type of conflict they come into. Here’s the link of the to the song: https://youtu.be/Egn_VNVKzI4

    Take care,
    Robert-Nickell Bligen
    World Lit

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