Elliot Ackerman read excerpts from his latest novel, “Waiting for Eden,” at Bards Alley on Jan. 15. Ron Capps, founder and director of the Veterans Writing Project led the discussion of Ackerman’s book. They also discussed Ackerman’s military background and his thoughts about the wars in Afghanistan and Syria.
“Waiting for Eden” is Ackerman’s third novel that focuses on the aftermath of war and its effect on the relationship of a husband and wife. Brian Turner in his Washington Post review described it as “a classic triangle story of love and friendship, a ghost story, a captivity narrative and a study of human endurance and suffering.” In the New York Times, Andrew Swofford said it “is a journey through the traumas, betrayals and ecstasies of contemporary warfare and the multiple lives touched and sometimes shattered by one combat injury or death.”
The story revolves around Eden Malcolm, an American soldier who served in Iraq until he was badly injured by an explosion. Eden has been in a coma for three years with his wife Mary by his side. When Eden regained consciousness he reflected on his marriage and his life, Ackerman wrote, “Is Eden the same man he once was: a husband, a friend, a father-to-be? What makes a life worth living?”
Ackerman is a writer and journalist. He wrote two earlier novels. “Dark at the Crossing” is a 2017 finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction. “Green on Blue,” his first novel, is set in Afghanistan, told from the perspective of Aziz, who joins Special Lashkar, a US-funded militia to save his brother. Aside from his novels and short stories, Ackerman has written articles for Esquire, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine among other publications. More recently he wrote “Troops Coming Home? That’s More Likely to Mean a War is Lost than Won,” in the Opinion section of the Washington Post and “How Should We Memorialize Those Lost in the War on Terror?” in Smithsonian Magazine’s January 2019 issue. His memoir, “Places and Names: On Wars, Revolution, and Returning” will be out in June this year.
Ackerman has a distinguished academic and military background. He graduated summa cum laude at Tufts University where he studied literature and history. He also has a master’s degree in International Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Ackerman who is a Marine who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was awarded the Silver Star Medal, which is United States Armed Forces third- highest personal decoration for valor in combat, the Purple Heart, and a Bronze Star for Valor. He was also a White House Fellow during the Obama administration. Ackerman is a D.C. native who shuttles between New York and D.C. where he and his family live.
Ron Capps is the founder and director of the Veterans Writing Project (veteranswriting.org/), a non-profit based in Washington D.C. that provides no cost creative writing and songwriting workshops for veterans and their families. The seminars are led by experienced writers with graduate degrees in writing who are also veterans. It also has a quarterly literary review on its sister website, O-Dark-Thirty (O-Dark-Thirty.org). Their next event in the D.C. area is a songwriting workshop which will be held at the D.C. VA Medical Center in the summer.
Capps’s literary work has been published by The New York Times, Delmarva Review, Little Patuxent Review and other online venues. He contributed commentary to the American Interest, Foreign Policy, NPR’s All Things Considered, and the BBC Worldwide Service. Three of his essays have been listed a notable in Best American Essays (2012, 2014, 2015). He wrote two books. His 2014 memoir, “Seriously Not All Right” described his years of service, dealing with PTSD and his recovery. He also wrote “Writing War: A Guide to Telling Your Own Story,” which is the curriculum for seminars and workshops provided by the Veterans Writing Project.
Capps has served for 25 years in the US Army and Foreign Service in Kosovo, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq and Darfur. He has received many awards for his service including the Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster as well as the Department of State Superior Honor Awards.
Capps is a graduate of both the Master of Liberal Arts and the MA in Writing programs of The Johns Hopkins University. He is a faculty member of the University of Maryland, a START (National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism) staff member and a researcher and scenario designer for the ICONS project.