I laughed, I cried, I REMEMBERED: ARC Review of I Remember Us by Jaime Dill

I Remember Us

The Short Review

I Remember Us is intensely personal, vulnerable, and relatable. I had really high hopes for this book, and it far surpassed my expectations. This collection of poetry, on the heels of Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural Poem, has ignited in me not only a desire to READ poetry (I Remember Us is the first book of poetry I’ve successfully read cover-to-cover–and intend to reread), but also to WRITE it. The writing is magnificent, the story is unique to the author and her husband and yet universal; I see myself in these pages. I laughed, I cried, and I REMEMBERED. We see the young couple fall in love—that part’s easy, and fun, full of nostalgia. But then they hit the real world—money problems, unintended pregnancy, heartbreaking loss, fighting with each other—and they overcome. Jaime Dill shows us the beauty of growing and changing together, of loving each other through the changes. This book is a celebration of love, of how love triumphs. Ultimately, I did more than remember the past: I remembered the NOW, I remembered how unbelievably blessed I am to be in a marriage like the one reflected in the pages of I Remember Us.

Some extra commentary

I was fortunate to receive a free copy of this book via Booksprout, and the above paragraph is the review I left on Booksprout and Goodreads and will pop up on Amazon once it’s out. NOW, I need to gush a little more and tell you where to find Jaime and all the great things she’s been up to in addition to writing a fantastic book.

First – this book is SO GOOD that I asked for a paperback copy for my birthday (WHICH IS TODAY), even though I’ve already read it. I’m only sorry I didn’t think to ask for a signed copy… and I rarely reread books. That said, I reread about half of it the other day when I sat down to write my review so I’d say it’ll be nice to have a paper copy! Pre-order your copy here!

Second – Jaime is not only a gifted writer, but she’s a super sweet person and very giving of her time. I’m working my way through some feedback she gave me on some poems I wrote recently and I’m just so touched she took the time to give me such thorough, prodding feedback. Which brings me to…

Third – She’s a developmental editor and book coach! And if her feedback on my amateur poetry is any indication, Jaime is worth every penny! Check out her editing company, Polish and Pitch, for information on how to work with her and more!

Finally – Jaime is also Editor-in-Chief of her own publishing imprint, Cardigan Press. They’re releasing their first publication, an anthology for and by writers, later this year. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

This Memorial Day, let’s remember

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, and Memorial Day seems like a fitting time. It’s one of those holidays that is so often celebrated so differently from its original intention; it’s no wonder, because it’s hard to do what the day asks us to do: remember those who have given their lives in service to our country. Someone too familiar with loss once said to me that Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day should be reversed — we’re supposed to remember those who died on Memorial Day, but instead we celebrate the beginning of summer; Veteran’s Day is to honor those who have served and have lived, but it comes as the weather is getting darker and colder. I think of this every year as each day approaches, and strive to remember and to appreciate what others have given for my benefit.

Lately, I’ve been remembering by reading and learning. A couple of months ago I fell into a sort of self-study of World War II. I had read The War That Saved My Life with my daughter, which follows a young girl who is forced to leave London and live with another family in the country, safe from the bombs expected to come any day. It was engrossing, and I bought myself the sequel at the kids’ next school book fair. Around the same time, I spent a night on the USS Hornet, a WWII-era aircraft carrier, with my daughter and some other Cub Scouts and their parents. I learned all about the war in the Pacific Theater, to which I really hadn’t ever given much thought. I knew about the atomic bombs, of course, and I had some vague idea of American pilots dying over the ocean – my paternal grandmother lost her then-fiance in the Pacific Theater (more about that later).

Then COVID-19 happened and I spend a week in quarantine in my guest bedroom, during which I read a lot of books I’d been meaning to get to but hadn’t had time for. These included the aforementioned sequel, called The War I Finally Won, and Lee Richie’s Black Bones, Red Earth, which isn’t about the war at all but taught me about the struggles of Bristish WWII orphans shipped to new homes in Australia after the war. These books helped open my eyes to hidden parts of the war, things I’d never learned about or understood, and reminded me of the cascading effects of war on everyone. Every lost life affects multitudes of people around them.

My interest piqued, I next picked up Angela Petch’s The Tuscan Girl, which tells another unseen side of the war: the reality of the ground war in Italy and the lives of Italian POWs, who I had no idea spent a great deal of time in England, helping work the farms while British men were away fighting. It caught my eye because my maternal grandmother lived in Italy during WWII, though not in Tuscany, and I welcomed the opportunity to learn about what her life may have been like.

Continuing on the theme of learning about aspects of the war with which I was previously unfamiliar, I happened upon a Kindle deal for The Things Our Fathers Saw, Volume I, which is a compilation of personal accounts from soldiers and marines who fought in the Pacific Theater in WWII. I was shocked by the brutality of the fighting, the fierceness and ideology of the Japanese, and the astounding numbers of men killed on both sides. And I was humbled by the candor and the emotions of these men who lived through hell on earth, witnessed and participated in so much depravity, and then went home to live “normal” lives. Again, I thought of ripple effects. The scars these men carried home were physical and emotional, and surely impacted their wives, children, and grandchildren. In a way, all of our lives have been shaped and impacted by what feels like ancient history to today’s kids, who may not know anyone personally who lived through that time.

In that book, they kept mentioning Eugene Sledge, with whom a few of the men profiled had served, so I used a Great on Kindle credit to purchase his first book, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, which was one of the books used to make the HBO miniseries The Pacific. My husband and I then watched the ten-part series, which visually presented many of the battles I’d read about in The Things Our Fathers Saw. It’s an emotionally draining series to watch; in many cases the homefront episodes were worse in that way than the battle episodes. But for the first time, The Things Our Father Saw and The Pacific showed me what the Pacific Theater actually entailed. As a kid, it was equated for me with the black and white photo of Grandma’s fiance, Joey, who was shot down over the Pacific. My child-brain turned this into a neat, non-fiery plane crashing into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California; a sort of sanitized picture. For the first time, I understand that these men–people’s husbands, brothers, fiances, sons–were fighting brutal battles on tiny island specks thousands of miles away from home, against an enemy that preferred death to surrender. It is tragic, both the loss of life and the emotional burdens placed upon an entire generation of men who survived the brutality. Mixed up in these emotions, though, is this weird sense of gratefulness to Joey – for fighting, but also for dying. Had he not lost his life, I would not ever have been born. My grandmother would never have met my grandfather, who himself fought in the war in the US Navy in North Africa, and wouldn’t have had my dad, who wouldn’t have had me. Ripple effects.

So, my WWII reading list is still growing, of course. I just started reading Sledge’s book, which is apparently considered a military classic. I also have a scanned copy of my grandather’s journal, written as he crossed the Atlantic en route to Libya as a young Navy Lieutenant. This journal came into my family’s possession after my grandfather had passed, and I wish we had had the opportunity to talk to him about it. But, though intensely proud of his service, he rarely talked about the war, so perhaps it is better this way. I also have on my Kindle a book about US-Japanese relations, and how they’ve been shaped by the Pacific Campaign, which I happened upon via a chain of tweets that started with Japanese Literature. Switching back to the European theater, my husband and I are planning to watch Band of Brothers together, and he helped my six year old pick out a book for my birthday, Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile. I have to intersperse happier reading among all this war, but I am so grateful to have stumbled into this self-study. I am learning so much, about history but also about humanity and how WWII shaped not only The Greatest Generation, but those of us who have come after.

I realize my musings have been a mix of focusing on both those who have lived and those who have died, but really it all points to intense sacrifice. So, I hope you all have a Blessed Memorial Day, and take some time to reflect on the many, many men and women who have given their lives in service of our country, and on those they’ve left behind, who suffer the ripple effects of their deaths.

This post is written in thanks, particularly to Joey, whose death indirectly brought about my life, and to Sgt. Alessandro Carbonaro, USMC, whose death during Operation Iraqi Freedom will always cause me pain and has made it so I will never forget that each casualty number represents a human being.