A Book Review of ‘Tribe’ by Sebastian Junger

'Tribe" by Sebastian Junger

A good friend of mine gave me a copy of Junger’s Tribe to review and critique and since it deals with Veterans, homecoming and healing I felt I should share my thoughts with other Veterans.  First let me assure you that this is not a scientific work by a psychiatrist or mental health expert, nor is Junger a scholar writing an in-depth work with many years of research. Junger is a journalist who has covered war in Bosnia and the Middle East and has interviewed hundreds of Veterans and civilians living in combat areas. His book is written in a journalist style that is simple to read and only four chapters long. Most readers should be able to read this book quickly in one sitting. Reviews have so far been positive, about 86 percent, but some readers have questioned his statistics and conclusions; Veteran feedback would be valuable.

Tribe begins and ends by examining the examples of Native American tribes that gave a strong sense of belonging and purpose to its members. Strong bonds were formed within the tribe. This sense of belonging made it easier for members to adjust back into their society after warring with other tribes. He also quotes historians like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine who lamented that many white settlers would go native and join the tribes, the reverse almost never happened. By the way this view is also controversial, read All the Real Indians Died Off by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz.

It is in the third chapter that the book writes stories of PTSD and homecoming for US soldiers. The author feels that although PTSD is real and finally being addressed by the VA and American society, mistakes are being made in the recognition and treatment of PTSD. Jungar points out that there are many levels of PTSD, acute to severe, and that not all of those suffering from PTSD were front line troops or even in combat areas. Jungar’s statistics are challenged by the VA and the Director of the Afghanistan Study Groups. Despite the detractors, how we define and treat stress is an important topic and this book can help start a conversation on how best to allocate limited government resources.

Ricardo is a veteran, employee of the West LA VA, and a Native American.

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