Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide
"Andersonville" by MacKinlay Kantor
• Elvis Presley becomes phenom
• Billie Holiday’s “Lady Sings the Blues at Carnie Hall”
• Dalip Singh Saunda first Asian elected to Congress
• First electric wheelchair
Mack Kantor, great-grandson of a Union Army officer, listened to stories of Civil War vets and played the fife at Civil War reenactments. As a WWII war correspondent, Wouk was shocked by what men did to each other in Buchenwald and “thought, for all intents and purposes, I’m standing in Andersonville right now. Then I knew I was going to write it.”
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Abuse of Union soldiers in notorious Georgia POW stockade
Union soldiers arrive in stockade prison and find no shelter, clean water, or sanitation
The tragedy and perversity of Civil War via historical fiction account of Andersonville Confederate prison in Georgia. The real Captain Henry Wirz was hanged for war crimes in November 1865.
A lot at 768 pages or 37 listening hours, but it’s hard to get away from Andersonville
Backyard awareness. People are suffering nearby. Find out and reach out.
The fight in novel is between abusers and abused. Confederate Southern prison command sets an American low in POW treatment; prison guards are cruel at best. Plantation owner with enslaved people calls out prison abuse. Bully prisoners prey on newbies and the weak; POW-run tribunal sanctioned by prison command takes on raider prisoners. Diverse Union POWs: educated and illiterate, criminals and crusaders, strong and dying, religious and not. Black POWs are the ones put to work, though some in command preferred they be shot. Women are grieving and losing it, selling it, or dreaming about it.
“Corn pone and fried hogmeat, the common fare of these backwoods ignoramuses” sounds better than what Andersonville POWs actually ate. Go with your care package of peaches leaking rum and Confederate cake. See how much horehound/“whorehound” candy you can stuff into your mouth.
“Could a doctor turn away from a corpse and inscribe upon the needed record: this man died of severe incarceration?”
DIY your outdoor shebang with whatever tattered cloth, wood scraps or other discards you glean from the banks of a polluted stream. BTW, venue smells beyond disgusting and your hovel is crammed into a tiny space with similar tragic dwellings. If you need inspiration, drive to an area where homeless people live in such conditions.
What brings out the best and worst in people? Why?
Why does Wirz call his captives “prisoners, never men”?
Discuss what unites characters and what people did with the interests of others mind.
How should the U.S. government and military address statues, flags, and building and base names that memorialize the Confederate rebellion and values?
What nasty historical surprises did you learn how people treated each other in America after you left school?
What does this novel tell us about how to treat homeless people and asylum seekers who cross the border?
The Andersonville National Historic Site, Andersonville, GA is an educational site that does not glorify the prison or the people who ran it. No need to visit the ugly monument erected by United Daughters of the Confederacy in the town of Andersonville dedicated to Captain Henry Wirz who ran the infamous prison. Instead, go to Jimmy Carter National Historic Park in nearby Plains, GA.
“Andersonville” (1996/made for TV). Kantor was screenwriter for “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946) adaptation of “Glory for Me” (1945) which was also foundation for “Returning Home” (1975). “The Andersonville Trial” (1970) is a PBS TV adaptation of the 1959 Broadway play.
“Long Remember” (1934/Battle of Gettysburg); “Valley Forge” (1975).