Friday, February 23, 2024

In new book, author Kristin Hannah turns her focus to women who served as nurses in Vietnam

Kristin Hannah was in elementary and middle school during the Vietnam War. The father of one of her close girlfriends was a pilot whose plane was shot down, and Hannah started wearing her POW bracelet.

This experience had a lasting impact on Hannah. More than fifty years later, she wrote “The Women,” a novel based on the war and the little-known stories of more than 10,000 women who served as nurses. They came home — just like male veterans — to a country that alternately fired and denigrated them for their service.

Kristin Hannah is the author of “The Women.” (Kevin Lynch, provided by St. Martins Press)

“It was the time when there were three television channels and even when I was a child I knew about the protests and the divisions in the country because of the war,” Hannah said during a telephone interview.

The author of more than 20 novels, including the 2017 bestseller “The Nightingale,” Hannah will be in Denver on Monday, February 12 for Pen & Podium, the sold-out lecture series presented by the Denver Post Community Foundation. Ahead of her national tour to promote “The Women,” Hannah spoke about the book and her career. The interview has been condensed.

Q: What drew you to the subject of Vietnam and women who served in the war? And why talk about it now?

A: It really meant a lot to me because my friend’s father never came home and it all seemed very important to me. I’ve written about veterans before and I want us to talk about them and take care of them after they make that kind of sacrifice.

When I had the idea and presented it to my editor in 1997, it was a time when no one wanted to hear about Vietnam. We were in lockdown in 2020 and I was in Seattle on an island without many things to do. I have seen medical staff overworked and underestimated. The country was divided again and it seemed like it was time to write it down.

Q: Your books focus on women’s stories of courage and their relationships. Why is this at the heart of your work?

A: I am drawn to stories about women’s lost histories or where women’s place in history has been forgotten, neglected or marginalized. It was pretty easy to say that we didn’t know the role nurses played in the Vietnam War, so that was my starting point. It was a way of experiencing this time and this war with a very narrow vision. This allowed me to keep my message at the forefront.

Q: What surprised you while doing research for the book?

Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from



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