Green on Blue is not the war story Americans are accustomed to hearing. Its author, Elliot Ackerman, chose to narrate the book from the perspective of an Afghan teenager, explaining to HuffPost Live, "All art to me is an empathetic act. Whoever's telling a story is trying to transfer emotion into someone else."
After serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan, working in the latter location as an advisor to Afghan troops, he certainly is empathetic to the different ways war is conceptualized across the globe. Though he currently lives in Istanbul with his family, where he writes about the Syrian civil war, he chose to center his fictional work on his comrades in Afghanistan.
"My war buddies, some were Americans, but some were Afghans. These were the guys that I fought alongside. We bled alongside each other, we mourned together," Ackerman said on HuffPost Live. "When I came home, these weren't people I could keep up with on Facebook. We couldn't get beers together at the local VFW. They were guys who were basically trapped in Afghanistan's elliptical war. Coming back here, I knew I wasn't going to see them again. I really wrote it as a last act of friendship."
Ackerman's novel tells the story of Aziz, a boy who chooses to go to war for myriad reasons, namely to ensure that his brother, who's been injured in a bombing, receives adequate medical care. In both the novel and the true stories Ackerman witnessed, the perception of war in Afghanistan differs from what the author described as "our very American conception of war; there's a cause, a good guy and a bad guy." Instead, for Aziz, "the reasons they were fighting were not particularly ideological. What builds up around these wars are economies. The reason why these folks are fighting is they're caught up in cycles of violence, and cycles of need."
Green on Blue, which has been called "harrowing, brutal, and utterly absorbing," published this week. To find out about other books that shed new light on war, see our list of 50 women writers who discuss conflict, displacement and resilience.