Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Jen Percy

Jennifer Percy's book Demon Camp: A Soldier's Exorcism is about PTSD, war, and American culture. Demon Camp invites readers into the life of Caleb Daniels, a veteran who, after returning from Afghanistan, finds himself haunted by a demon he names The Destroyer.

Percy's Q & A with Elisabeth Sherman at Harper's magazine:

Did you set out initially to write about PTSD and then met Caleb, or was it the other way around? How did deliverance become the focus of the book?

I wanted to more fully imagine the homecoming experience of soldiers and their time at war. The language we use to talk about PTSD has historically been determined by political and economic factors. It’s attached to a vocabulary that intentionally limits our ability to imagine atrocity because it’s protective and reductive. It benefits the perpetrators but dehumanizes the other. It’s a process of rationalization. But what happens when that vocabulary is discarded, and we partake in an effort to fully imagine the experience of soldiers and veterans? This is the space I hoped to inhabit. We might refuse to imagine wartime experience because it’s outside the realm of the ordinary; or maybe it feels unnecessary, or is too demanding on our psyches. But when we do imagine it, what we find is often the familiar. It’s ourselves. And that might also be a reason we turn away.

If we think about traumatic experiences as the past moving into the present, and settling there, disallowing the possibility of escape, then Caleb had engineered a belief system around this state of being. The war followed him home, but he lived with it. He managed to exist in a somewhat symbiotic fashion with his demons. It was a constant dialogue. A process of negotiation. And the conversation felt like a contained dialectic — between Caleb’s present life and his past actions, but also between homecoming and war; between...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue