The details of what happened to Jessica Lynch as a prisoner of war in Iraq may still be sketchy, but the price tag for the salvageable memories of her horrific ordeal was revealed loud and clear Tuesday: $1 million for the life story of a young girl from Palestine, W. Va.
Lynch said the book “will be about more than a girl going off to war and fighting alongside her fellow soldiers. It will be a story about growing up in America,” but Lynch’s upbringing isn’t why she got the deal for a book destined for the best-sellers list.
While her unfortunate thrust into fame came because she spent more than a week as a POW in Iraq, it’s unlikely folks will shell out $24.95 just to read about her prom. Lynch still struggles to remember what happened to her, and not even her family is sure what took place while Lynch was captured.
“We don’t talk about what happened over there. When she wants to tell me, she will,” Jessica’s grandmother, Wyonema Lynch, told the Associated Press. How can a 20-year-old share the most intimate details of her life with a stranger but not talk about her most trying times with her family?
Enter Rick Bragg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who says he has a “kinship” with Jessica and the one tapped to piece it all together.
Bragg recently resigned as a reporter from The New York Times. He left after being suspended for not crediting a freelancer who reported the majority of a story that carried Bragg’s sole byline. Jessica and Bragg are said to share the $1 million book advance with all royalties going to Jessica.
Exactly what Jessica Lynch remembers, or how good her memory is, nobody close to her seems to want to say. Doctors contend Jessica may never remember what happened to her as a prisoner. Maybe it’s part of the pre-book-tour-hype. After receiving a medical discharge from the Army last week, Lynch is now able to pursue her new career as an American Hero Icon, complete with a book deal.
The images in April of a 19-year-old female U.S. soldier being rescued from an Iraqi prison were uniquely American. For days, people prayed for Jessica and praised her will to survive. The road ahead back then was uncertain. Physically, Jessica is on her way to a full recovery. The mental anguish of returning to “normality” is where the haze remains.
Patriots will probably purchase every copy of “I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story,” soon after the first 500,000 copies land on bookshelves. If secretly doctors believe the intense recollection needed to write a book will help Jessica, maybe a book deal is what she needs. But if the details of what Jessica remembers and doesn’t are being withheld for publicity purposes to increase demand for the book, that’s uniquely American, too — disgustingly greedy — but distinctly American.
On the bright side, maybe Jessica and Bragg’s collaboration will be a breakthrough. Even if it isn’t, readers will flock to Borders or Barnes & Noble for subsequent sequels as Jessica regains more of her memory and publishes amended book versions.
She’s a young woman, damaged for life during battle for her country. Maybe America owes Jessica Lynch every red cent she’ll receive in royalties for the life she’ll never have because of her imprisonment. If so, reparations are overdue for a multitude of other individual whose lives have forever changed while they fought for this country.
One of the few things completely clear is too many actors are leaving Hollywood for politics and too many American heroes are heading for the spotlight. Since when did living the American dream have so many cast changes?
Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief.