2005-2006 Common Experience: Courage

2005-2006 Related Events
Excerpt from If I Die in A Combat Zone
About Tim O'Brien


“Courage is nothing to laugh at, not if it is proper courage and exercised by men who know what they do is proper. Proper courage is wise courage. It’s acting wisely, acting wisely when fear would have a man act otherwise. It is the endurance of the soul in spite of fear—wisely."

-Tim O'Brien, If I Die in A Combat Zone


click for larger view

The 2005-2006 Common Experience engages students in a campus-wide discussion of "Courage" as it is examined in the Summer Reading book If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim O'Brien.

In such books as If I Die in a Combat Zone, The Things They Carried, Going After Cacciato, and even his latest novel July, July, celebrated author and Texas State Mitte Chair of Creative Writing Tim O'Brien probes the experiences of American soldiers in Vietnam.

O'Brien uses Vietnam not just as a setting, but as a metaphor for life. In a published interview, he explains, "You don't have to be in 'nam to be in 'nam . . . You're there and I'm there when things in the world happen that ought not to happen, and we just feel so hopeless and out of control."

The themes and emotions that O'Brien explores in the context of Vietnam are the themes and emotions of human life: friendship, patriotism, duty, sacrifice, leadership, innocence and experience, good and evil, humanity and inhumanity. Arguably the central theme in much of O'Brien's work - a theme he explores with passion and honesty - is Courage. Courage offers a relevant, challenging, and inspiring theme for the 2005-2006 Common Experience.


2005-2006 Related Events

2005: October | November
2006: January | February | March | April

 

August - February, 2005

TESTIGOS DE LA HISTORIA / WITNESSES TO HISTORY

Modern & Contemporary Documentarians of Mexico

From Héctor García's portentous 1971 photograph of the World Trade Center towers under construction to Eniac Martínez Ulloa's shot of an obviously heated discussion between an immigration agent and a smuggler of undocumented people in Zapata Canyon, these fifty-plus images speak softly and strongly of courage in the arena of human experience.

OCTOBER 8 we will be celebrating the exhibit with a reception and program featuring a talk on documentary photography by Estela Treviño and Alfonso Morales, two photo historians from the Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City.  This event is FREE and open to the public.  The entire campus is invited and students are especially encouraged to attend. Refreshments will be served.

Witliff Gallery

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September 9, 2005

Gospel Fest
featuring Denise Tischner

6:30pm, Ballroom

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September 14, 2005

Dead Poet's Society
SACA Film Series

7pm, LBJSC Teaching Theatre

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September 15, 2005

Tim O'Brien Conversation

7:30pm, Alkek Teaching Theater

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September 21, 2005

Dolores Huerta: Gender, Labor, and Transnationalism in the 21st Century
She will be speaking in Anthropology 3350: Gender and Sexuality in Cross-Cultural Perspective

2pm, Flowers Hall 220

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September 22, 2005

Jack Johnson
film sponsored by University Seminar

6:00 pm, Alkek Teaching Theater

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September 26, 2005

Dr. Nico Schüler
Music and Courage: The Story of Composer Hanning Schröder (1896-1987)

8:00pm, Recital Hall (Music Building)
Public Lecture; free admission

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September 27, 2005

Born on the Fourth of July
SACA Film Series

7pm, LBJSC Teaching Theater

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September 27, 2005

On Courage: Aristotle Meets Maya Angelou
Philosophy Dialogue Series

Led by the Sophists and Sages of the Philosophy Dialogue class

12:30, PSY 132

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September 27 - October 27, 2005

Leslie Dill: Speak and Be Spoken To

5-7pm, Gallery II, JCM

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September 28, 2005

Courage in the Work of Maya Angelou
Philosophy Dialogue Series

Led by Professor Monya Stubbs, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

11:00, PSY 132

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September 28, 2005

Maya Angelou's Journey of Faith
Price Lecture

Professor Monya Stubbs, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

3:00, Campus Christian Community, 604 N. Guadalupe

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September 28, 2005

Maya Angelou: On Courage
Writer, poet, Reynold's Professor of Literature, Wake Forest University

 

 

For more information on Maya Angleou, click here.

 

8:00pm, LBJ Student Center Mall

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September 29, 2005

Combatants and Caged Birds: The Many Faces of Courage
Philosophy Dialogue Series

Led by the Sophists and Sages of the Philosophy Dialogue class

12:30, PSY 132

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October 4, 2005

Bijan Afkami: My Dream--The Journey of the "Ultimate Minority"
Sponsered by Professional Development

7pm, Alkek Teaching Theater

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October 4-9, 2005

Going After Cacciato

In October, the Department of Theatre and Dance at Texas State is proud to present the world premiere of Linney’s adaptation of Tim O’Brien’s National Book Award winning novel Going After Cacciato. During the Oct.4-9 run of the Theatre Department's production of Going After Cacciato, playwright Romulus Linney and Tim O'Brien will participate in a talkback after the Thursday Oct. 6 performance of Going After Cacciato.

Tim O'Brien is the 2005-2006 Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at Texas State University, San Marcos. He is the author of If I Die in a Combat Zone, Going After Cacciato, winner of the 1979 National Book Award in fiction, and The Things They Carried, which was named by the New York Times as one of the ten best books of l990, received the Chicago Tribune Heartland Award in fiction, and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award

Romulus Linney is the author of 3 novels and more than 40 plays. He has won 2 Obie Awards (for Sustained Achievement and for Tennessee), 2 National Theatre Critics Association Awards for Best New American Play produced outside New York (for Heathen Valley and for 2), and Time named Linney’s play Laughing Stock as one of the 10 Best Plays of 1984. Six of his works (Tennessee, F.M., The Love Suicide at Schofield Barracks, Why The Lord Come to Sand Mountain, April Snow, and Akhmatova) have appeared in the Best Short Plays Series.

Main Stage, Texas State University

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October 5, 2005

Philidelphia
SACA Film Series

7pm, LBJSC Teaching Theater

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October 6, 2005

Andrea Powell: Ending Gender Violence
Honors Alumni Speaker

7pm, Alkek Teaching Theater

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October 10-14, 2005

Prof. Jernegan: Wake of the Flood

Professor Jernegan, ceramics professor at Tulane University, New Orleans, will be working in the ceramics studio, JCM 1127 all week constructing a sculpture titled, "Wake of the Flood." All are welcome to come by during the week to visit with Jeremy and talk to him about the construction of his piece, which will
be installed on our campus.

He will give a public presentation on his work titled, "Maritime Allusions in a Terrestrial Medium" on Thurs., Oct. 13 at 3:30 in JCM 2121.

Ceramics Studio, JCM 1127

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November 1, 2005

Nick Kotz
"LBJ, MLK, and the Laws that Changed America"

7pm, Alkek Teaching Theatre

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November 3, 2005

Robert Rivard
Editor of the San Antonio Express-News

Kotz will read from his new book, Trail of Feathers: Searching for Philip True,
A Reporter's Murder in Mexico and His Editor's Search for Justice.
Book signing to follow.

SOUTHWESTERN WRITERS COLLECTION
5:30 pm, Alkek Library, Seventh Floor

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November 10, 2005

Benjamin Alire Saenz, Beverly Lowry, and Celia Morris
Courage, A panel Discussion

As part of the Texas State Common Experience, authors Benjamin Alire Saenz,
Beverly Lowry, and Celia Morris share inspiring stories of courage—from their
own lives and in their work. Quitting the priesthood, leaving a successful husband,
and dealing with the loss of a child are among the topics examined. Moderated by
author and SWWC Assistant Curator Steven L. Davis.

Book signing to follow.

7:00 pm, Author Reception
7:30 pm, Panel Discussion, Alkek Library, Seventh Floor

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November 10, 2005

John Hulme
HBO Director of “Searching for a Father”
Sponsored by University Seminar

7pm, Alkek Teaching Theatre

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November 14, 2005

Tim O'Brien Conversation

7:30, Alkek Teaching Theater

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November 17, 2005

Dietrich Bonhoffer
film sponsored by University Seminar

6pm, Alkek Teaching Theater

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January 30, 2006

Dr. Nico Schüler
Courage Through Music: On Music in Nazi Concentration Camps

8:00pm, Recital Hall (Music Building)
Public Lecture; free admission

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February 5, 2006

Celebration of Courage: A Common Experience in the Arts
with Kaysie Seitz Brown, Joey Martin & the Texas State Chorale, Russell Riepe, and Nico Schüler

Lacrimosa for clarinet and piano was written for Dr. David Pino, who first performed this work at Trinity College, London, England. Lacrimosa means tearful, mournful, but it is also the title of the seventh movement of Mozart’s Requiem Mass, from which Riepe draws his musical material. In light of the recent destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, the composer would ask that we recall the literary tragedies of the ancient Greek dramatists and that we study Paul Tillich’s resolution or expurgation of tragedy: “Man and nature belong together in their created glory, in their tragedy, and in their salvation.” In other words, Tillich suggests self-renewal and going on to a new reality, conquering what is estranged and reuniting what belongs to each other in the power of a spiritual presence.

Music, as one of the most emotional art forms, can not only express the most inner feelings of individuals, but also activate them, and be the origin of acts themselves. The mini-lecture by Dr. Nico Schüler explores the function of music in the fight against Nazism. Specific examples include prisoner’s songs in Nazi concentration camps and the ‘musical heroism’ of German composer Hanning Schröder.

Falling Up is an abstract, primordial piece that portrays a struggle of rising up. The floor is comfortable and rising from it causes a sense of vulnerability. This vulnerable feeling of rising from the floor relates with the vulnerability of falling. The negativity of falling becomes the positive outcome of rising up, overcoming and learning from a challenge, allowing vulnerability to reveal new possibilities.

The Texas State Chorale under the direction of Dr. Joey Martin will be presenting three pieces that celebrate personal courage, sources of strength, and the ability of the human spirit to face, with courage, the unknown. The centerpiece for this performance will be the baritone solo “Matthew Shepherd” by Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Del Tredici. As their final piece, Texas State Chorale will present “The Quest Unending” with text taken from Tennyson’s Ullyses ... To hope, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

3:00pm, Evans Auditorium
Free admission

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February 7 - 19

The Exonerated
A play written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen; Directed by Paige Bishop

Winner of the 2003 Outer Critics Award for Best Off-Broadway play, the Dramatist Guild Award, and The John Gassner Playwriting Award, the playwrights of this incredible play conducted interviews with more than forty exonerated death-row inmates across the nation. It is a dynamic character study of the effect of having one's freedom and future torn away from six of those wrongly accused. It examines how these innocent people survived and reclaimed what was left of their lives and spirit.

On Friday and Saturday (Feb. 10 & 11) there will be a post-show discussion with Joyce Ann Brown, who served over nine years in a Texas prison before being exonerated for a crime she did not commit. Ms. Brown is the author of Justice Denied and is the Executive Director of MASS: Mothers (Fathers) for the Advancement of Social Systems, Inc.

7:30pm (2pm on Feb. 12 &19), Studio Theatre, Theatre Center

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February 16

Catholic Student Center Forum: Courage in Religion and Science
Presentations on "Courage"


Dr. Robert Gorman, Texas State University, Political Science, "The Medieval Synthesis of Religion and
Science" (15 minutes)

Dr. Daniel Lochman, Texas State University, English, "Early Modern Conflicts of Religion and Science: The Case of Galileo" (15 minutes)

Dr. Dana Garcia, Texas State University, Biology, "Contemporary Issues in Religion and Science" (15 minutes)

Ms. Patricia Becker, M.D., “Contemporary Issues in Medicine” (15 minutes)

Discussion: 45 minutes

7-8:30pm, Catholic Student Center

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February 14 - March 27

Mildred Howard: In the Line of Fire
An installation to support The Common Experience

8am – 10pm Gallery I, JCM

Opening Reception Feb 14, 5-7pm Gallery I, JCM

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March 1

Spike Lee

In support of the Common Experience, Mr. Lee will speak on "Courage."

8pm, LBJSC Mall

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March 8

Alexis Levitin
Translating Clarice Lispector: The Stylistics of Love

Poetry translator & professor of English at SUNY-Plattsburgh will speak about translating Clarice Lispector, the twentieth century Brazilian prose writer.

3:30pm, Southwest Writer's Collection, 7th floor Alkek Library

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March 29

Gilbert Tuhabonye: The Courage to Run: Escaping Genocide
Austin runner and trainer

Mr. Tuhabonye will speak about his most dramatic run-- his escape from the war between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes in Burundi. For more information on Mr. Tuhabonye, please click here.

7pm, Centennial Hall Teaching Theater, Room 153

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April 6

Blood for Oil, Ports for Sale: The Courage to Redefine American Priorities
Panel, moderated by Dr. Jeff Gordon

We are the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world, now unrivaled in our status as a superpower. Are we using our unprecedented wealth and power wisely? If not, in what respects are we going wrong? If you were President of the US, to what ends would you be directing our national energies? Where are we headed as a nation? What should be our national agenda?

Five panelists, representing a wide spectrum of political orientations, will evaluate current national directions and propose our future course. The panelists will be former US Senator and Ambassador Robert Krueger (Political Science), Dr. James Pohl (Military History), Dr. Rebecca Raphael (Religious Studies), and outstanding Texas State upperclassmen Cyprus Walter and Johnathan Winston. After the opening dialogue among the panelists, the floor will be open to commentary, questions, and challenges from the audience. Moderating the discussion will be Dr. Jeffrey Gordon (Philosophy).

5:30pm, Alkek Teaching Theater

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April 13

Dr. Sheldon Solomon: Grave Matters: On the Role of Death in Life
Professor of Psychology, Skidmore College

Professor Solomon will give a lecture on the role death plays in our lives.

7-9pm, Alkek Teaching Theater

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April 17

Susan Winters & Nozuko Ngcaweni: Dignity and Community: Courage in the Time of AIDS

The two will discuss their efforts through disclosure, counseling, and photography to educate communities about the AIDS pandemic in South Africa. There will be a slide presentation of Ms. Winters' award-winning photopraphic essays of the AIDS pandemic in South Africa.

Please note: Ms. Winters and Ngcaweni will present Hamba Kamnandi--Walk
Forward Well in San Marcos, April 18, 7 p.m. in the Old Fish Hatchery Community Bldg., 206 CM Allen Parkway (behind Chamber of Commerce Building), as well
as Wednesday, April 19, at noon at the Campus Christian Community Center, on Guadalupe St.

For more information about Ms. Winters' work, click here.

7:30pm, LBJ Teaching Theater

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April 19

Susan Winters & Nozuko Ngcaweni: Hamba Kamnandi--Walk Forward Well

The two will give a second talk surrounded by the exhibit of Ms. Winters' award-winning photographs documenting the struggle for liberation from Apartheid as well as the onset of AIDS in South Africa. Photographs of Ms. Ngcaweni and her family are featured in the "Hamba Kamand -- Walk Forward Well" exhibit (on display from early April to mid May).

Please note: Ms. Winters and Ngcaweni will present Hamba Kamnandi--Walk
Forward Well in San Marcos, April 18, 7 p.m. in the Old Fish Hatchery Community Bldg., 206 CM Allen Parkway (behind Chamber of Commerce Building), as well
as Wednesday, April 19, at noon at the Campus Christian Community Center, on Guadalupe St.

For more information about Ms. Winters' work, click here.

4pm (opening reception), Mitte Honors Program in Lampasas 407, The Mitte Coffee Forum

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April 19

Forum on "Courage"
Black Men United and Dr. Dwight Watson of the History Department will be co-sponsoring a forum discussing "courage." It will include a brief PowerPoint presentation on the civil rights movement beginning with the march on the Selma bridge and ending with the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The forum will focus on Dr. King's courage to step outside the comfortable confines of the struggle for equality and place himself in a leadership position. The presentation will be followed by a brief questioon and answer period. Food and drinks will be served immediatley following the forum.

For more information, contact Jamar Keaton, Secretary of Black Men United, AALC/AMC Public Relations Co-Chair at 254-702-4122.

7pm, LBJSC 3-15.1

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Excerpt from If I Die in a Combat Zone

"It's incredible, it really is, isn't it? Ever think you'd be humping along some crazy-ass trail like this, jumping up and down like a goddamn bullfrog, dodging bullets all day? Back in Cleveland, man, I'd still be asleep." Barney smiled. "You ever see anything like this? Ever?"

"Yesterday," I said.

"Yesterday? Shit, yesterday wasn't nothing like this."

"Snipers yesterday, snipers today. What's the difference?"

"Guess so." Barney shrugged. "Holes in your ass either way, right? But, I swear, yesterday wasn't nothing like this."

"Snipers yesterday, snipers today," I said again.

Barney laughed. "I tell you one thing," he said. "You think this is bad, just wait till tonight. My God, tonight'll be lovely. I'm digging me a foxhole like a basement."

We lay next to each other until the volley of fire stopped. We didn't bother to raise our rifles. We didn't know which way to shoot, and it was all over anyway.

Barney picked up his helmet and took out a pencil and put a mark on it. "See," he said, grinning and showing me ten marks, "that's ten times today. Count them-one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten! Ever been shot at ten times in one day?"

"Yesterday," I said. "And the day before that, and the day before that."

"No way. It's been lots worse today."

"Did you count yesterday?"

"No. Didn't think of it until today. That proves today's worse."

"Well, you should've counted yesterday."

We lay quietly for a time, waiting for the shooting to end, then Barney peeked up. "Off your ass, pal. Company's moving out." He put his pencil away and jumped up like a little kid on a pogo stick. Barney had heart.

I followed him up the trail, taking care to stay a few meters behind him. Barney was not one to worry about land mines. Or snipers. Or dying. He just didn't worry.

"You know," I said, "you really amaze me, kid. No kidding. This crap doesn't get you down, does it?"

"Can't let it," Barney said. "Know what I mean? That's how a man gets himself lethalized."

"Yeah, but--"

"You just can't let it get you down."

It was a hard march and soon enough we stopped the chatter. The day was hot. The days were always hot, even the cool days, and we concentrated on the heat and the fatigue and the simple motions of the march. It went that way for hours. One leg, the next leg. Legs counted the days.

"What time is it?"

"Don't know." Barney didn't look back at me. "Four o'clock maybe."

"Good."

"Tuckered? I'll hump some of that stuff for you, just give the word."

"No, it's okay. We should stop soon. I'll help you dig that basement."

"Cool."

"Basements, I like the sound. Cold, deep. Basements."

A shrill sound. A woman's shriek, a sizzle, a zipping-up sound. It was there, then it was gone, then it was there again.

"Jesus Christ almighty," Barney shouted. He was already flat on his belly. "You okay?"

"I guess. You?"

"No pain. They were aiming at us that time, I swear. You and me."

"Charlie knows who's after him," I said. "You and me."

Barney giggled. "Sure, we'd give 'em hell, wouldn't we? Strangle the little bastards."

We got up, brushed ourselves off, and continued along the line of march.

The trail linked a cluster of hamlets together, little villages to the north and west of the Batangan Peninsula. Dirty, tangled country. Empty villes. No people, no dogs or chickens. It was a fairly wide and flat trail, but it made dangerous slow curves and was flanked by deep hedges and brush. Two squads moved through the tangles on either side of us, protecting the flanks from close-in ambushes, and the company's progress was slow.

"Captain says we're gonna search one more ville today," Barney said. "Maybe--"

"What's he expect to find?"

Barney shrugged. He walked steadily and did not look back. "Well, what does he expect to find? Charlie?"

"Who knows?"

"Get off it, man. Charlie finds us. All day long he's been shooting us up. How's that going to change?"

"Search me," Barney said. "Maybe we'll surprise him."

"Who?"

"Charlie. Maybe we'll surprise him this time."

"You kidding me, Barney?"

The kid giggled. "Can't never tell. I'm tired, so maybe ol' Charles is tired too. That's when we spring our little surprise."

"Tired," I muttered. "Wear the yellow bastards down, right?"

But Barney wasn't listening.

Soon the company stopped moving. Captain Johansen walked up to the front of the column, conferred with a lieutenant, then moved back. He asked for the radio handset, and I listened while he called battalion headquarters and told them we'd found the village and were about to cordon and search it. Then the platoons separated into their own little columns and began circling the hamlet that lay hidden behind thick brush. This was the bad time: The wait.

"What's the name of this goddamn place?" Barney said. He threw down his helmet and sat on it. "Funny, isn't it? Somebody's gonna ask me someday where the hell I was over here, where the bad action was, and, shit, what will I say?"

"Tell them St. Vith."

"What?"

"St. Vith," I said. "That's the name of this ville. It's right here on the map. Want to look?"

He grinned. "What's the difference? You say St. Vith, I guess that's it. I'll never remember. How long's it gonna take me to forget your fuckin' name?"

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About Tim O'Brien

William Timothy O'Brien was born in Austin, Minnesota, in 1946. When he was in the fourth grade, his family moved to Worthington, Minnesota, the "Turkey Capital of the World" as he describes in If I Die in a Combat Zone. O'Brien credits his library-board-member father and his elementary-teacher mother with fostering his love for books and his belief in the power of stories to tell truths. His budding literary interests, plus his devotion to baseball--he played shortstop on a little league team coached by his father--led to O'Brien's first writing attempt at around the age of 10: "Timothy of the Little League"!

At 18, O'Brien left Worthington for Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he majored in political science. He bacame active in campus politics and was elected president of the student body during his senior year. As the Vietnam War escalated during O'Brien's college years, he took part in some minor anti-war demonstrations, but those demonstrations were not yet of the intensity of the protests that would soon rock college campuses--including Texas State, where in 1969, a group of students who became known as "the San Marcos 10" were suspended for engaging in peaceful protest against the war in Vietnam.

The summer after O'Brien graduated from Macalaster, he received his draft notice, and in Februrary 1969, he was sent to Vietnam. He served a 13-month tour of duty, during which he earned a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star (for rescuing a wounded comrade under fire), and the Combat Infantry Badge.

After his discharge from the Army, O'Brien studied American military intervention at Harvard, worked as a journalist for The Washington Post, and continued writing about his war experiences, which he had begun to do while still in Vietnam.

Tim O'Brien is the 2005-2006 Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at Texas State University, San Marcos. He is the author of If I Die in a Combat Zone, Going After Cacciato, winner of the 1979 National Book Award in fiction, and The Things They Carried, which was named by the New York Times as one of the ten best books of l990, received the Chicago Tribune Heartland Award in fiction, and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1993 the French edition of The Things They Carried received the prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger. His book In the Lake of the Woods was named by Time magazine as the best novel of 1994. The book also received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians and was selected as one of the ten best books of the year by the New York Times. His other books include Northern Lights; The Nuclear Age; Tomcat in Love; and his most recent novel July, July.

This year's selection for the Summer Reading Series, If I Die in a Combat Zone, is an intensely personal account of his year as a foot soldier in Vietnam. O'Brien takes us with him to experience combat from behind an infantryman's rifle, to walk the minefields of My Lai, to crawl into the ghostly tunnels, and to explore the ambiguities of manhood and morality in a war gone terribly wrong. Beautifully written and searingly heartfelt, If I Die in a Combat Zone is a masterwork of its genre.

For more information:

Click here to view Random House's Tim O'Brien page.

Click here (pdf) to visit an additional biography created by the University of Texas at San Antonio.

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