Northwestern University Press. 288 Pages. $34.95.
From the moment Leah Garrett’s Young Lions announces its thesis in the subtitle, it seems indisputable that scholars should have examined this issue decades earlier: the impact of Jewish authors and their works on the American war novel. Garrett’s arguments involve innovative rereadings of several familiar texts and ample explorations of several lesser-known titles that deserve the attention she gives them.
After an elaborate introduction, Garrett provides an overview of the Jewish soldier over time. It is not a pretty picture, with the smothering stereotypes of weakness prevailing amid outright expressions of antisemitism. Early World War II novels hint at a transition, but a handful of 1948 bestsellers were the first to truly introduce a new kind of American Jewish soldier and, as a consequence, a new kind of Jew: a hardened masculine figure equal to the demands of war, an image that anticipated Israel’s War of Independence and echoed the decades of heroic Zionist activity that preceded it.
Focusing on the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II, Garrett examines Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead and Ira Wolfert’s An Act of Love. Garrett’s artful comparison-and-contrast analysis is strikingly revealing, particularly in demonstrating how the military melting pot did not erase antisemitism, though it did allow for the possibility of friendships that, within limits, “could overcome class and ethnic hatreds” within the Pacific War. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears on the Jewish Book Council website, click here: Young Lions by Leah Garrett | Jewish Book Council