Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Sand Queen"

Helen Benedict is the author of six novels and five books of nonfiction. Her latest novel, Sand Queen, set in the Iraq War, was published in August 2011 by Soho Press. Culled from real life stories of female soldiers and Iraqis, Sand Queen offers a story of love, courage and struggle from the rare perspective of two young women on opposite sides of a war.

Benedict applied the Page 69 Test to Sand Queen and reported the following:
Sand Queen tells the story of Kate Brady, an army specialist who is guarding an American prison in Iraq at the start of the war, and Naema Jassim, a medical student from Baghdad whose father and little brother have been arrested and thrown into that same prison. The two women meet at the prison entrance, after which they come to affect each other’s lives in deeper ways than either can ever imagine. It is a story, I hope, that confronts what war does to families, love, integrity and hope.

On p. 69 of Sand Queen, the reader would see my main character, the young soldier Kate, and her only two women companions at war playing a trick on a male soldier who has been taunting and harassing Kate ever since they arrived in Iraq:

Excerpt from page 69:
When I get back from my run with Yvette and Third Eye, Mack’s still asleep. He always grabs every last second of shut-eye he can, usually sacrificing a wash to do it—no doubt why he stinks so bad—but it’s just what we want right now. Yvette winks at us, puts her finger to her lips and quietly fishes out some dental floss from her duffle bag, gesturing at us to get ours. Then, quick as a flash, she wraps the floss around Mack’s legs, tying them down to his cot, while we do the same to his arms, stomach and chest—he sleeps like the dead. The guys in the tent gather around silently, grinning. In no time at all, ol’ Macktruck is tied up tight as a pork roll.

The next thing Yvette does is pure genius. She points her rifle at an open flap in the tent, screams “Attack!” And fires.

Mack’s eyes fly open in terror and he tries to jump up. But he can’t, of course. The look on his face! He struggles for a few minutes in such a panic I almost feel sorry for him. Almost. The rest of us fall around, laughing.
© 2011 by Helen Benedict, reprinted with permission
This scene – funny to the characters, disturbing to readers -- captures the way war and harassment brutalize both victims and perpetrators. Or to put it another way, it shows, as does the book, how victims can be turned into bullies.
Learn more about Helen Benedict and her work at her official website.

My Book, The Movie: Sand Queen.

Writers Read: Helen Benedict.

--Marshal Zeringue