The day after September 11, 2001, Sean Davis—18 months out of uniform—strode into the Oregon National Guard’s recruiting office and reenlisted. An art school dropout slogging through the day-to-day monotony of a dead-end job, the attacks of 9/11 gave him a new sense of purpose and direction as a staff sergeant in Bravo Company. But what he finds in Iraq is nothing like what he expected. He discovers the oddities of a pop-up America in a hostile desert wasteland and is confronted with more questions and contradictions than answers.
When his platoon is torn apart in an ambush, Sean is shipped back to the United States bruised, broken, and wracked with guilt. His re-entry into civilian life becomes a quick descent into the darkness of PTSD and substance abuse that lingers unacknowledged and untreated, threatening to consume him. Finally seeking help, Sean rediscovers the artist within. The Wax Bullet War offers a glimpse into the life of a single soldier in the 21st century, cutting through the noise of political rhetoric to explore the complexities of war and the restorative power of art.
Sean Davis has opened up the soldier’s story wide enough for all of our humanity to emerge — messy, beautiful, chaotic, tender, violent, loving. The territory between soldier and artist is breathtaking. — Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water and Dora: A Headcase
Funny, insightful, literate and poignant — this book will draw equal laughs and tears from its readers. It will stand as one of the best combat memoirs to come out of this new generation of warriors. — John R. Bruning, author of The Devil’s Sandbox
The best kind of art breaks, inspires, haunts, and ultimately puts us back together in a slightly altered order so that we may see the world as we have never seen it before. Sean Davis’s The Wax Bullet War does precisely this—connecting our hearts and minds to the dark and perilous as we follow the author’s unflinching and dogged attempt to survive some of the most horrific episodes in recent American history. — Deborah Reed, author of Things We Set on Fire
The Wax Bullet War is not a book about battle and its glories. This is a book about duty and its consequences, about rising up from poverty and overcoming PTSD, and about love and art and picking up the pieces and moving on. Sean Davis’s language is pure and poetic and visionary, and his story, one of the finest accounts of the combat veteran’s experience you will ever read, is unforgettable from page to tightly-composed page. Every American and every citizen of the world should read this book and learn from its message of peace and forgiveness and human understanding. — Mike Magnuson, author of The Right Man for the Job, Lummox, and Heft on Wheels
Funny, dark, honest, and sad, Davis’ tale of training and combat in Iraq is an important reminder that our politics have consequences. — David Axe, War is Boring
A brutally honest account of an ordinary young man surviving extraordinary situations. — Danfung Dennis, director of the documentary Hell and Back Again
The lessons in the teaching guide for The Wax Bullet War are meant to provide relevance and to help students make personal connections to the text through characters, relationships, themes, and structure. The guide is not meant to be comprehensive; it should be used to supplement classroom material already in place. Please feel free to adapt or alter the lessons to better meet the needs of your classroom, and enjoy the book!