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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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Surviving an American Gulag

by Edward C. Patterson
Kindleboard Book Profile for Surviving an American Gulag
Welcome to Ft. Gordon, Ga - the Special Training Unit. It's 1967, the height of the Vietnam War and Private Winslow Gibbs has been drafted. He's two-hundred and seventy pounds and a bundle of nerves. He also has issues of a different nature, but in these days before the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, these are dealt with in the American Gulag, the Army's answer to the problem. What they don't count on are the ones like Private Gibbs, who want to survive it and serve.

Based on the author's own experiences, Surviving an American Gulag is a story that the military would prefer remain a footnote. However, it is a defining moment and should not be lost to posterity. Also included with this work is "A Dime a Dip," a tale of the author's grandmother and her considerable efforts on behalf of thousands of migrant worker children."

Acknowledgements

Surviving an American Gulag is a work long in the undertaking and comes from real experiences that I encountered during my sojourn at Fort Gordon, Georgia in 1967. The events, although novelized, pattern the U.S. Army's best (or worst) solution to solve perceived intramural social problems prior to the advent of the notorious Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, a provision I hope to see overturned during my lifetime. I want to thank all those brave men and women in the armed forces, regardless of their sexual orientation, for their service. You have contributed to the pulse and bloodline of freedom, from the first Minutemen to the last souls that stay the good course in Iraq and Afghanistan. I too can count myself among your number.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: The Standards of War
Chapter Two: Exit and Entry
Chapter Three: The Powder Puff Room
Chapter Four: Getting with the Program
Chapter Five: Hoops and Laps
Chapter Six: Run, Dodge and Jump
Chapter Seven: Bringing in the Bacon
Chapter Eight: Over Hill, Over Dale
Chapter Nine: Frank
Chapter Ten: Night Sounds
Chapter Eleven: Calling Mr. Dix
Chapter Twelve: Lenny
Chapter Thirteen: Buddy
Chapter Fourteen: Merryman's Moment
Chapter Fifteen: Apple Pan Dowdy
Chapter Sixteen: Fire in the Hole
Chapter Seventeen: A Dream of Freedom
Chapter Eighteen: A Look in the Mirror
Chapter Nineteen: In the Halls Antiseptic
Chapter Twenty: Dust
Chapter Twenty-one: Back to Basics
Chapter Twenty-two: The Battle of the Soame
Chapter Twenty-two: The Roxy
Chapter Twenty-four: Jose
Epilog: June 16, 2008

A Dime a Dip

Here's a few pull-quotes from reviewers of Surviving an American Gulag

"Patterson's novelized memoir read just as that, a memoir. When I opened the first page, I felt as though I was sitting next to him, and when I closed the book, I shook his hand and thanked him for sharing the memories." - Esmerelda Luv

"Patterson's telling of the story conveys the primitive conditions and harsh life experienced in basic training, from the total lack of privacy in the barracks to the grueling physical fitness training and the terror of night-time battle drills. Anyone who has ever had to spend time in one of the Army's many "splinter villages" will know from Patterson's words that he's been there himself." - Michael Hicks, author of In her Name

"Yet again Mr. Patterson has proven with this novel what a superb story teller he is. He has this amazing ability to catch the reader's attention right from the beginning." - Mireille eynes (Belgium)

"Surviving an American Gulag is nothing short of a heart and gut wrenching exploration of true human fortitude." - Timothy Mulder

"Edward Patterson's tale of military life has left me breathless. I ache to see this story up on the big screen. Some of the most endearing and inspiring characters, set against the backdrop of a rabidly homophobic bootcamp." - Thomas Riccobuono

"This is a poignant novel about how the military treated it's gay recruits and how a rag tag group struggled to overcome substantial obstacles. I found myself cheering for Gibbs in the novel's closing chapters as his confidence and abilities grew along with his self discovery." - Todd Fonseca, TMBOA.com

"All the characters in this book, bad guys and good guys, will tug at your emotions in a very good way. Thank you for sharing your life." - Bookbinder ========================================
For complete reviews and even a snippet of an online reading see the Amazon page.

Come into the Gulag . . .

Edward C. Patterson
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Here's a piece of trivia - Surviving an American Gulag was the feature of the first on-line book signing last August, hosted my Sondi Miller.

And here's a review I received when the novel/memoir was irst released.

A Unique Perspective on Military Life
Review by Michael R. Hicks (Annapolis, MD USA)

Having served in the Army myself, I thought that this book provided a rather fascinating perspective of what for many is a very pivotal point in their lives: military basic training.

The story is told from the point of view of Private Winslow Gibbs, who seems totally unsuited to the military, particularly in the Vietnam-era draft: he is terribly overweight, emotionally soft and - although unbeknownst to himself at the time - homosexual, at a time when being "queer" in the military could land you in prison.

Patterson's telling of the story conveys the primitive conditions and harsh life experienced in basic training, from the total lack of privacy in the barracks to the grueling physical fitness training and the terror of night-time battle drills. Anyone who has ever had to spend time in one of the Army's many "splinter villages" will know from Patterson's words that he's been there himself. And those who haven't experienced the trials and tribulations of military training can gain a better understanding - and respect - for what our young service members experience before they even place themselves in harm's way; and while those of Patterson's generation had no choice during the draft, young men and women today volunteer for such hardships to serve their country, which is something so many of their countrymen do not truly appreciate.

Like those men and women, Patterson's hero - Private Gibbs - learns that he is more than he ever thought he could be. The training he endures, while harsh, reveals his inner strength, which is tempered and honed by his drill sergeant and the members of his platoon.

As for the gay aspect of the story, to me it was almost incidental. Patterson is clearly trying to portray the extreme hardships borne by gay men in the military at the time, and this book certainly does that well in a very non-graphic way.

But the bottom line, in my opinion, is the same as for any other tale of men (and, today, women) who prepare for the ultimate test of war: it's a story of comradeship, a tale of survival against what so often seems to be overwhelming odds.

Surviving an American Gulag http://www.amazon.com/dp/1438247230
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I have now discovered that Surviving an American Gulag is available in Sony Reader format also at Smashwords.com - I think I'll convert my other books in case anyone needs it in that format also.

Ed Patterson
 

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edwpat said:
Popular among my readers is Surviving an American Gulag, based on my experiences in the US Army in 1967.
Thanks! I went right over and bought your book. I'm looking forward to reading it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Dear Avalon 3:

Thank you for becoming a Patterson reader. I hope you enjoy the read. I will not fail you.
Edward C. Patterson
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Surviving an American Gulag is perhaps the hardest book I ever wrote as it is a "memoir" with the names changed, and autobiographuical, and I try to do something that's difficult. I try to show my soul - warts and all. Being a gay man in the US Army was hard enough, but to relive it in print was a bit traumatic. However, I've said - so there . . .

Edward C. Patterson
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Authors learn to polish their novels up so they sparkle, but in the case of Surviving an American Gulag, I stopped one step of refinement. I felt that the rough edge helped the work and so left some rugged stretches , which readers have told me, adds to their enjoyment.

Edward C. Patterson
 
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Sounds great!

Might have to check it out!!! Especially since I enjoyed your novel The Jade Owl so much!!!

And the price is right!!!!

;)



Wendy

 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thank you Wendy:

This books is a bit different than The Jade Owl - no fantasy here, but me baring my soul, warts and all. I hope you enjoy it, but indeed, I will not fail you.

Edwrd C. Patterson
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Here's a little sample from the book: (Bowdlerized) :D Gibbs is my autobiographical character and was drafted into the Army at 275 lbs. (just as I was)

==============================
Gibbs smiled and entered the mess. As he took his metal tray, a hand slammed his shoulder. It was Cook — Sergeant Beale. He was a thin, gangly man, not the typical picture of an Army cook. Still, he packed a powerful wallop. After the whack, Beale screamed across the food line to his assorted K.P. workers. “There’s a Pillsbury Doughboy coming.” He looked at Gibbs. “When you’re in here, you’re mine.” His eyes bugged. “Only what’s on your tray, nothing more. And if you don’t get it in here, you don’t get it.” He yanked Gibbs toward him by the collar. “Or I’ll feed you to the other pigs. D’ya hear me?”
“Yes . . . yes, sergeant.”
“Good. Then, we’ll get along. Eat hearty.”
Ormond pulled him along.
“What did he mean, a Pillsbury Doughboy?”
“What did you think he meant?”
Gibbs soon found out. He extended his tray for eggs and ham and hot cereal, but nothing materialized. Not so much as a biscuit. When he reached the end of the line, he stared at Ormond’s tray and back at the next in line, Herbie, who had pancakes drizzled in honey. Suddenly, a plate sailed over the counter landing on Gibbs tray. On it, a hard-boiled egg, two slices of dry toast. A glass of orange juice followed. He scanned this in dismay. He could smell bacon, but not on his plate. He spied oatmeal and maple syrup, but not on his plate. He hankered for country gravy and sausage swimming in grease, but now realizing he was tagged for a special diet. The good stuff was not, nor would be, showing up in the near future on his plate.
Gibbs sighed, but he was hungry, and the dry toast and rubbery egg was nothing to sneer at, although as he chowed down beside Ormond and the others, he was finished before Herbie had started even one of his pancakes. He thought that maybe Ormond would spot him a hunk of ham, or even a pat of butter. However, while Ormond knew the lay of the land, he knew that Beale would have his balls if he mucked around with a Pillsbury Doughboy’s diet. Gibbs was so hungry he didn’t notice the dozen or so other fellow Doughboys gazing dreamily about the mess hall, living on aroma and nothing more.

Edward C. Patterson
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Trivia: The original draft of Surviving an American Gulag was written in the 1st person. In order to help distance myself from the autobiographical material, I converted it to 3rd person, a tighter perspective to maintain for this particular journey.

Edward C. Patterson
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Surviving an American Gulag was the internet's first on-line reading and signing back in Agust 2008.

Edward C. Patterson
 

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I just finished reading this book and thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.  Knowing it is based on a true story makes it even more interesting when we see the struggles with inner emotions and the perseverance of one soldier in the military in 1967.  I've learned a lot about the Special Training Unit which, if not for this book, I never would have  known even existed.  I recommend this book to everyone and actually see it as making a good, informative movie.  All the characters in this book, bad guys and good guys, will tug at your emotions in a very good way.

Thank you Edward C. Patterson for sharing your life.  I wish you continued success and happiness.


           
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thank you Bookbinder for your review of my book. It is not an easy thing to share the details of my life, warts and all, with the world, but it is gratiying to know whn someone finds my journey worthy of comment.

Edward C. Patterson
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Today there was a discussion regarding the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy on the Gay & Lesbian Writers Readers group and I stated that there were worse things than Don't Ask, Don't Tell when I served as a gay man in the Army. I mentioned the Special training Unit (the Gulag), and members asked me to elaborate, so I did and thought, since this book is posted here and with lots of traffic today, I'd repost my response:

". . . my novel, Surviving an American Gulag, which tells the full tale, The Special Training Unit is where the Army put those "undesirables" that they wanted to Section 8 out. It was a harsh place, akin to a prison and the training was intense. Since I was in it, I'll tell you - it was mostly for homosexuals, illiterates and the physically unfit (I fit into two of those categories - and I'm literate). I survived it, meaning I manage to lose 120 pounds in 6 weeks, survived a bout of pneumonia (caught because of my weakened physical condition) and graduated back into Basic training (week 2), went on to AIT and finally left for Germany to serve proudly (although I was originally slated for Nam). Most of the other people in the Gulag were discharged with a Section 8, which meant they were unemployable and wore the mark of Cain. Even the sergeants in charge of the Gulag were misfits.

My particular Gulag was in Fort Gordon, Georgia. It took me some deep soul searching to write Surviving an American Gulag, because I was still in the closet and, like many gay folk, had a good dose of self loathing, but I think of all the achievements in my life, that one was the hardest to endure and overcome (the right to serve my country on my own terms). But I decided to tell the story, because one of my mentors, Miriam Ben Shalom, the first lesbian ever to overturn a dishonorable discharge legally, told me, when I sat with her back in my activist days. "It doesn't matter what you did or how you acted then. What matters is what your going to do about things now." Miriam is a remarkable woman and my hero. I remember her saying in a speech she made about the Pink Triangle prisoners of Dachau, and her relating of the human Christmas tree massacre there. "Whenever I feel my voice is becoming silent and I've done my best. Whenever I am drained by the effort, I lay in bed at night, and all those men come to the end of my bed and bid me to stay the course for them. How can I refuse them?" Ah, such mentors and heroes we all should have as Miriam Ben Shalom.

Edward C. Patterson
A proud Veteran, 1966-68

Visit my NEW Amazon Authors Page http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002BMI6X8
 
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