Guest Post - Phyllis Zimbler Miller (and a Giveaway)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Author Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of Mrs. Lieutenant and is herself a former Mrs. Lieutenant and the co-author of the Jewish holiday book "Seasons for Celebration." She has recently written a teen guide based on her coaching of young people and lives in Los Angeles. Visit her website.

The author has graciously agreed to do a guest post here on A Book Blogger's Diary. Please welcome, Phyllis Zimbler Miller:

My book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL was released in April. The book takes place in 1970 during the Vietnam War and tells the story of four young women who meet as new officers’ wives at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. As people can tell from the cover of the book, the four women are quite diverse.

Here are frequent questions that I get:

What prompted you to write a book about this era? Was it personal experience?

Was your info on the four different wives taken from the lives of family and friends or of strangers? Are you portraying yourself in one of the four women?
Phyllis Zimbler and Mitchell Miller at the Coronation Ball at Michigan State University on Saturday, November 18, 1967, sponsored by the Cadet Officers Club and the Arnold Air Society.

Yes, personal experience prompted me to write this story. In the spring of 1970 I was, indeed, a new army officer’s wife at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, right after the Kent State National Guard shootings. And although the army did not say that officers reporting for active duty at Armor Officers Basic training could bring their wives, many wives – myself included – came along with their husbands.

Once we arrived and managed to find housing off-base, we were told there was an official training course for us to learn how to be proper officers’ wives. And I did volunteer to be the chair of the entertainment committee for the wives’ graduation luncheon.

What’s also true is that, besides me – a Jew from Elgin, Illinois, on the luncheon entertainment committee were a Southern Baptist, a black, and two Puerto Ricans, one of whom didn’t speak English. Needless to say, we all had to do some adjusting to each other.

Since then I’ve always wanted to write this story because I believe that it represents an important slice of women’s social history in the U.S. All fictional books and movies of which I know about the Vietnam War era depict only the men’s point of view. I wanted to talk about the women’s point of view and also what was expected of an officer’s wife during that time.

In addition, I wanted to talk about overcoming prejudice. And while in the actual writing of the characters I mashed up characteristics from many different people, there are many incidents and characteristics that are true.

I’m hoping that social studies and history teachers in high schools and colleges will find their way to this book because it provides several discussion topics for students studying that era in the U.S. And on my website at I provide book group discussion guidelines along with the first four chapters of the book and original 1970 army documents.

Oh, just so you know – while Sharon Gold is the closest character to me, I was not an anti-war protester. I had my head stuck very far in the sand in order to ignore the nightly news of fighting in Vietnam because my husband had said on our third date: “I’m going to Vietnam.”

Synopsis of Mrs. Lieutenant :

They had their whole lives to look forward to if only their husbands could survive Vietnam. In the spring of 1970 - right after the Kent State National Guard shootings and President Nixon's two-month incursion into Cambodia - four newly married young women come together at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, when their husbands go on active duty as officers in the U.S. Army. Different as these four women are, they have one thing in common: Their overwhelming fear that, right after these nine weeks of training, their husbands could be shipped out to Vietnam - and they could become war widows.

Sharon is a Northern Jewish anti-war protester who fell in love with an ROTC cadet; Kim is a Southern Baptist whose husband is intensely jealous; Donna is a Puerto Rican who grew up in an enlisted man's family; and Wendy is a Southern black whose parents have sheltered her from the brutal reality of racism in America. Read MRS. LIEUTENANT to discover what happens as these women overcome their prejudices, reveal their darkest secrets, and are initiated into their new lives as army officers' wives during the turbulent Vietnam War period.

Now, the Giveaway!

The Prize: Phyllis is generously offering up a free copy of this book to one lucky winner.

Eligibility: Anyone in the world can enter this giveaway! That's right, it's OPEN WORLDWIDE. (So, please spread the word to your international friends)

To enter: Please read the author guest post and the book's synopsis. Then leave a thoughtful question for the author in the comments of this post, along with your email address.

Ends: midnight CST of August 13th.

Read the Disclaimer.
*NEW* Joy Book Giveaway
Author Guest Post : Jasmin Rosemberg (and a GIVEAWAY!)

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17 People said

  1. Hi, the immediate question that came to mind was in the thick of things when all you could do was think of your situation, did you ever try and imagine the future. Maybe one with your husband and one without.

  2. Oh my. This is intimidating. I have been anxious to read your book since reading abut it on so many blogs. I was a Lieutenant's wife during the first Gulf War while pregnant with twins. I think this book would speak to me. Do you feel that your life during that time was almost surreal? I can vividly remember how I felt the few days between finding out my husband was being deployed and the actual deployment. I felt that everyone else was going on with their lives while mine was being suspended. It was an experience so different from anything I had felt before or since, it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of my life. Have you ever felt like that (or maybe I'm just crazy!)? Thank you for this opportunity. I can't wait to get my hands on your book.

  3. Did your husband help you in writing this book? I feel for you and everything you went through. I was a military wife, my husband spent 20 years in the Army. Even though he did not go to Vietnam, he was in some very hot spots over the years. Every time he left I was scared to death. No one knows what it is like until they have been through it. Thanks for writing this book.

  4. Heidi --
    This is a very interesting question and one I'm not sure I can answer. It's been a long time since then, but I suspect I had my head in the sand even when we were actually at Ft. Knox. I didn't watch the nightly Vietnam news nor read the casualty reports in the newspapers. But by then my biggest fear had been relieved -- a fear I can't reveal unless you've read the book. So I think a simple answer would have to be -- I didn't.

  5. Debbie --
    Your comments rang true to me, especially this sentence of yours: "I felt that everyone else was going on with their lives while mine was being suspended."

    I've been rereading my letters home from when we were stationed in Munich and I wrote about this subject a great deal. It was also interesting to read my parents' attempts in letters to make me feel as if life wasn't passing us by.

  6. Anita --
    No, my husband did not help me write this book, although I asked him questions sometimes about military things. But I have all our original documents from that time and notes we both made afterwards, so I had a lot of original material with which to work.

    Now that I have a blog on military topics -- -- he does sometimes email me posts from the military blogs that he reads.

  7. Hi, Did you like living the military life. Did your have to relocate very often?! I see you are from Illinois like me! I still live in Illinois.
    Where has been your favorite place to live? Your book sounds glorious. Cindi

  8. Cindi --
    My husband only had a two-year commitment through ROTC, although later he extended that commitment to three years through a voluntary indefinite option. So we didn't move that much. First we were at Ft. Knox for Armor Officers Basic, then at Ft. Holabird for Military Intelligence training, then in Munich, Germany.

    In terms of the opportunities to travel (on a very limited budget), Munich was the best place to live. But for an American quality of life, Los Angeles is the best for us. (We've been here since the end of June 1980.)

  9. Although my husband wasn't an officer, I think I would find the reading very interesting. Can I assume he enlisted? What did you think about the draft? Were you ever bitter about the experience. And how do you compare it to today's war? Thanks for any answers.

  10. I'm sorry, I forgot my email addy:

  11. Catslady --
    Joining ROTC in college is voluntary. By the time the first draft numbers were announced in December of 1969 (and my husband's number was 16) he was already a commissioned officer.

    In letters home from Munich I complained to my parents that we were falling behind in our careers and that the army controlled our lives. My parents wrote reassuring letters that things would be okay when we returned to civilian life.

    I believe an all-voluntary army makes a big difference in both the public perception of the war and in the troop perception of that war.

    But one thing I suspect is true in both a time of a drafted army and a time of a voluntary army -- those people who have no connection with military life are clueless about what military life is like.

  12. I love the multicultural element. Did you have any problem with assimilating the various cultures without losing their individual flavors?

    hallelshalom at

  13. Lin --
    No, I didn't have any problem with losing the individual cultures. Each of the four women is very clear in my mind.

    While they all share being quite young, new to military life, and fearing their husbands will die in Vietnam, they also each bring very distinct backgrounds to their new role as an officer's wife.

  14. Operation Soldier Care Needs Help

    As so many of the comments to my guest post have been about military connections, I wanted to let you all know about a project with which I'm helping:

    Listen to Nancy Sutherland explain on a posting to about Operation Soldier Care. Nancy and are doing this project to support our deployed troops (with a little help from me and others):

  15. Did you have feelings about the legitimacy of the war or did it matter to you at that time?
    pintolinda (at) hotmail (dot) com

  16. Just dropping in to let you know I posted this at Win a Book. Hope you find lots of new readers, Ms. Miller!

  17. Susan --
    Thank you so much for posting this at Win a Book.

    Pintolinda --
    During the Vietnam War I stuck my head in the sand and had no opinions about the war. I only knew that the man I was going to marry told me on our third date that he was going to Vietnam.

    To read a moving account of what it means to be a combat soldier today, check out my newest blog post at