Interview with Helen Benedict about her work and life
WBGO features Benedict on their author profile series
Praise for SAND QUEEN
"This is 'The Things They Carried’ for women in Iraq."
--The Boston Globe, August 2011
"Gut-wrenching.... not recommended for the faint of heart...a novel that will leave you deeply unsettled if not shaken to the root of your being."
--Herald-Dispatch, September 2011
"Two women, an Iraqi refugee whose father and young brother were detained by American soldiers, and a 19-year-old American Army Specialist, wrestle with the complexities of war in Benedict's thrilling and thoughtful new novel."
--Publisher's Weekly, June 2011
". . . [I]t is clearly Ms. Benedict’s intention to turn stereotypes upside down, make readers squirm, and yet still keep them reading. Ms. Benedict pulls off this audacious gambit because she is an exceptional writer and storyteller. Her gritty depiction of a soldier’s life in the Iraq desert is particularly well done. SAND QUEEN is so powerful precisely because Helen Benedict is so pissed off.”
--New York Journal of Books, August 2011
"This is an eyeopening novel that allows readers to step into the combat boots of a young, inexperienced female soldier living and working in a place where the line between friend and foe is nearly impossible to distinguish. Funny, shocking, painful, and, at times, deeply disturbing, SAND QUEEN takes readers beyond the news and onto the battlefield."
--Booklist, June 2011
Word and Film
How my work intersects with the documentary The Invisible War
Helen Benedict is the author of six novels and five books of nonfiction. Her latest novel, SAND QUEEN, set in the Iraq War, is now out in paperback from Soho Press. Culled from real life stories of female soldiers and Iraqis, SAND QUEEN offers a story of love, courage and struggle from the rare perspective of two young women on opposite sides of a war.
Helen Benedict's books, SAND QUEEN, and THE LONELY SOLDIER, along with her articles about the sexual assault of women in the military, inspired the award-winning documentary, The Invisible War, shown to acclaim at Sundance, 2012. Benedict's work also inspired a landmark law suit against the Pentagon on behalf of victims of military sexual assault, and won the 2010 EMMA award from the National Political Caucus, the Ken Book Award, and the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.
I really enjoy talking with Reading Groups. Go to my contact page and let me know the time/date of your meeting. I will contact you to make arrangements for a speakerphone call or visit.
Watch The Invisible War, the new documentary inspired by Helen Benedict's work.
Watch and sign the petition to change the way the military handles sexual assault
CBC's The Sunday Edition on Sand Queen
Helen Benedict interviewed by CBC, Feb. 13, 2012
SAND QUEEN is now out in paperback, as of July, 2012!
Helen was featured on NPR's "To The Best of Our Knowledge." Follow this link to hear the captivating interview between Helen and NPR's Anne Strainchamps.
Helen's articles and books inspired the documentary, "The Invisible War" featured at the Sundance Festival, 2012.
Interview about Sand Queen on Out of Bounds radio show
Kirsten Wasson interviews Benedict about Sand Queen and her work
“Every war eventually yields works of art which transcend politics and history and illuminate our shared humanity. Helen Benedict’s brilliant new novel has done just that with this century’s American war in Iraq. SAND QUEEN is an important book by one our finest literary artists.”
--Robert Olen Butler, author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
"In writing what might be the first major woman’s war story and alternating points of view between opposing sides, Columbia professor Helen Benedict has created something enormously fresh and immediate on this sadly ancient topic."
--Chronogram Magazine, August 2011
"In SAND QUEEN, Benedict has crafted a fictional explanation for some of the lurid real-world headlines from the Iraqi occupation. She also gives the reader a convincing and affecting portrait of two resilient young women caught up in war."
--Shelf Awareness, August 2011
“Helen Benedict’s compelling story provides an intimate picture of what it means to be a soldier, what it’s like to live on the battlefield, and what the ethical choices are that our troops have had to make in Iraq. At times funny, at times grimly painful, SAND QUEEN offers a new chapter in contemporary American history.”
--Roxana Robinson, author of Cost
“Anyone who claims to value the lives of our soldiers should read this powerful, harrowing, and revelatory novel.”
-- Valerie Martin, author of The Confessions of Edward Day and Trespass
is based on Benedict’s research for her most recent nonfiction book, THE LONELY SOLDIER: THE PRIVATE WAR OF WOMEN SERVING IN IRAQ
(Beacon Press, 2009 and 2010). THE LONELY SOLDIER
has won several awards, including the EMMA
(Exception Merit in Media Award) from the National Women's Political Caucus and the Ken Book Award
, both in 2010.
Benedict has testified twice to Congress on behalf of women soldiers, and lectures at colleges and military academies around the country about gender justice and the military. Her book and play about women soldiers inspired the the February 2011 class action suit against the Pentagon and Secretaries of Defense Rumsfeld and Gates on behalf of military women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted while serving.
Benedict's other novels are THE EDGE OF EDEN, THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE, THE SAILOR'S WIFE, BAD ANGEL, and A WORLD LIKE THIS.
A play Benedict wrote based on her interviews with women soldiers, THE LONELY SOLDIER MONOLOGUES, was produced in 2009 and 2010 at two New York City Theaters, The Theater for the New City and La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, and is currently being performed at several campus theaters around the country. The play is available for further productions. Please see Contact page.
One of Benedicts early articles on women serving in the military during the Iraq War, “The Private War of Women Soldiers,” (Salon, March 2007) was awarded The James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism in 2008. In 2010, both her book and her article, "The Scandal of Military Rape” won the EMMA from the National Women’s Political Caucus. For other articles on women soldiers, see Essays.
Benedict’s earlier nonfiction includes VIRGIN OR VAMP: HOW THE PRESS COVERS SEX CRIMES and PORTRAITS IN PRINT and RECOVERY: HOW TO SURVIVE SEXUAL ASSAULT.
Her articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Women's Review of Books, and in many other newspapers and magazines. She is a professor of journalism at Columbia University.
Articles featuring Benedict and her work have appeared on BBC, NPR, Al-Jazeera and many other U.S. and international radio and television stations, and in Reuters, The New York Times, Huffington Post, In These Times, Ms. Magazine, the Italian Vanity Fair, UK Marie Claire, and numerous other print publications in the U.S. and abroad. Benedict and her husband, the writer Stephen O'Connor, are profiled in the book, River of Words, edited by Nina Shengold with photography by Jennifer May (NY State University Press, 2010).
EDGE OF EDEN Reviews
-- “Benedict, an author of both fiction and nonfiction (Sailor’s Wife; Virgin or Vamp), offers distinctive cross-cultural insights as well as a cadre of satiric and fascinating characters, and the result is a story that is both touching and humorous. Highly recommended “ (Library Journal, Nov, 2009)
--"An armchair traveler's delight, Benedict's novel is an amusingly poignant look at the British abroad in the spirit of Evelyn Waugh." (Publishers Weekly, Sept. 2009)
--"Benedict offers an engaging, lush portrait of envy, desire, and the insatiable lure of the exotic and unknown." (Booklist, Oct. 2009)