We all have defining moments in our lives: birthdays, graduations, marriage, children, new jobs, home owning, and other specific times or events that mark pivotal changes. While moments like those are the ones that drastically alter the direction of our lives, sometimes smaller changes—but ones no less significant—also impact the paths we take. It can be hard to comprehend how fully important choices such as what movie to watch, what event to attend, or what class to take (amongst many other decisions) can be for one individual…after all, these choices seem like nothing more personal preferences compared to larger decisions going on in the world around us. Perhaps that comparison drives the beauty of the situation, though—these smaller, personal choices have the ability to impact the world around us because our motivations are often impacted by how we see our surroundings.
In 2001 I was a pre-teen living and loving life just like any Generation Y child: my world consisted of boy bands, middle-grade Disney Channel shows, and perfecting the art of hair straightening. I lived in a small bubble with little impact on my life other than my family, friends, books, and intermediate school. At the time, my family lived in a suburban town about an hour south of New York City; after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, my little bubble no longer felt so safe with the proximity of my home and school to a metropolis too little for comfort.
The release of Jerry Bruckheimer’s blockbuster movie Pearl Harbor, which premiered just a few months before the 9/11 attacks, appeared nothing short of coincidental given the terrorism in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. I don’t know if my parents chose to show that film for our family movie night as a way to introduce the topic of war to my siblings and I, or if it was simply choice, but I do know that experiencing the 9/11 attacks and watching Pearl Harbor soon afterwards drew me deeply into the subject of war.
Bruckheimer’s Pearl Harbor is by no means the best movie ever created—if anything, there are more weaknesses to the movie than strengths. To my pre-teen heart, however, this movie was the best story ever created: the history, the romance, the heroism, the bravery, and the friendships all blended to stir my heart and soul into fanaticism with everything relating to World War Two. I am positive my parents never expected a movie to incite in me such a passion for a topic (or even the movie itself); no matter the weaknesses of the movie, however, Pearl Harbor will forever hold a piece of my heart because it inspired me to pursue a topic and time I previously only glanced at within history textbooks.
Part of perusal of World War Two included reading every fiction novel set from 1939-1945. From romances, to young adult, to general historical fiction, I devoured World War Two fiction without any limitation of subject. From camps for German refugees in New York State and Japanese Americans out west, to the experiences of a Japanese family living on Oahu during the Pearl Harbor attacks, to young female nurses in the American theater, I used fiction novels to learn about the various experiences of those who fought and lived during World War Two. Of course, my most read World War Two book was the novelization of Pearl Harbor by Randall Wallace; I lost count of how many times I re-read that book during high school.
Over ten years later, my love for World War Two still stands strong and my reading of that genre in fiction remains as prevalent as ever. In particular, I thoroughly enjoy reading the genre within the CBA market because reading about those experiences in conjunction with the characters drawing upon their faith influences me to live out my faith in a personal way. My personal favorite reason for reading World War Two fiction revolves around the trope of characters fighting for something bigger than themselves. The United States is a society that often focuses on individualism and personal satisfaction, but during World War Two everyone worldwide fought for each other, for a better purpose, and for a cause that dealt with doing right no matter the challenges. Those aspects, along with the elements of faith in CBA novels, make a strong combination of novels that challenge, teach, and inspire readers.