Brightwell Publishing

books that explore and 
              strengthen military brat cultural identity




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A startling, groundbreaking exploration, Military Brats is the first book to analyze what it means to grow up in the military.  Based on five years of research, including in-depth interviews with eighty military brats from all the armed services as well as physicians, teachers, psychologists, social workers, and others, this book probes the consequences—both positive and negative—of being raised in a family characterized by rigid discipline, nomadic rootlessness, dedication to military mission, and the threat of war and personal loss.

With its clear-eyed, sometimes shocking depictions of alcoholism and domestic violence, and its empathy for military parents caught up in an extremely demanding 
way of life, Military Brats provides catharsis, insight, and a path toward healing.  Mary Wertsch not only defines America’s most invisible minority for the very first time, she also passionately exhorts the children of warriors to come to terms with their native Fortress legacies so that they might take full advantage of the positive endowment that is also their birthright.

Civilians will find this book eye-opening.  Military parents will find it at once challenging and sympathetic.  And military  brats will know in their hearts that this is the book they’ve been waiting for. 


I thought I was singular in all this, one of a kind.  With this book, Mary Wertsch astonished me and introduced me to a secret family I did not know I had….This book is both a love letter and a troubled meditation on the way children are raised in military families.”

--Pat Conroy , Marine brat, author of The Great Santini, Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, My Losing Season, My Reading Life 

















Author Mary Edwards Wertsch, a journalist and Army brat, takes the original approach of viewing the military as a culture: not a corporate culture, as some would have it, but a home culture for those born into it--a culture as valid and powerfully shaping as any other on earth. It is through sharing our stories with one another, she believes, that we rediscover our cultural roots and attain the empowerment of self-understanding. 

Her 80 interviewees are nearly all Baby Boomers, born after WWII.  The culture she discovers and defines through their stories, however, is one that transcends the confines of one particular period.

Wertsch points out, "The fact the military changes substantially over time is evidence for--rather than against--the idea of the military as a distinct culture.  Every true culture is an organic thing which continues to evolve and change even as it retains core characteristics that continue to shape its children generation after generation. 

"The U.S. military of 1900, 1950, and 2000 looked distinctly different from one another, and yet were also very much the same:  authoritarian, idealistic, mobile, largely male, dedicated to mission, radically different from civilian society, and engaged in continual preparation to wage war.

"This is why military brats do not stop being military brats the day they come of age and turn in their i.d. cards.  We are formed so thoroughly by that distinct culture that we continue to be influenced by it in our values, our choices, our strengths and our challenges until the day we die.  I did not know this when I started my research; I was blown away by the truth of it by the time I finished. 

"I think most military children grow up with the vague feeling that they don't really come from anywhere, don't carry the markings of a specific cultural origin, and don't have a shared connection with others from the same culture.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

"Truly, it's about time we owned our own lived experience.  We come from a culture as distinct and as powerfully shaping as any culture on earth.  Understanding that is the way to finally understand ourselves and our families, and to connect meaningfully with others like us."

Be sure to visit the Military Brat Blog!

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