Writers of Washington - Fighting the Night 

June 13, 2024
5:30pm - 7:30pm
Location
Washington Center
901 4th St, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20001Map this location
Access & Features
  • Free food
  • Open to the public
  • Registration/RSVP

Join us for a book talk with award-winning author and former reporter for The Washington Post, Paul Hendrickson. Paul and Dean of University Libraries Carrie Cooper Ed.D ’24 will lead us on a deep dive into his book, Fighting the Night, which details his father’s experiences as a night fighter pilot during World War II. Fighting the Night is an intense and powerful story of violence and love, forgiveness and loss, and a tribute to those who got plunged into service, in the best years of their lives, and the sacrifices they and their loved ones made, then and thereafter.

Paul Hendrickson is a three-time finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a winner in 2003 for his book Sons of Mississippi. The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War was a 1996 finalist for the National Book Award. Hemingway’s Boat was a New York Times best seller and also a best seller in the UK. He has been the recipient of writing fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lyndhurst Foundation, and the Alicia Patterson Foundation. Since 1998, he has been on the faculty of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania, and for two decades before that, he was a staff writer at The Washington Post. He lives with his wife, Cecilia, a retired nurse, outside Philadelphia and in Washington, D.C.

Recently Paul donated his research papers to Swem Library. His papers are a welcome addition to the library’s Special Collections Research Center. They cover a variety of subjects, including civil rights, photography, military history, Cuba, and the original research conducted through interviews and correspondence with people who are central to his books.

A brief synopsis of Fighting the Night:

In the fall of 1944, Joe Paul Hendrickson, the author’s father, kissed his twenty-one-year-old wife and two baby children goodbye. The twenty-five-year-old first lieutenant, pilot of a famed P-61 Black Widow, was leaving for the war. He and his night fighter squadron were sent to Iwo Jima, where, for the last five and a half months of World War II, he flew approximately seventy-five missions, largely in pitch-black conditions. His wife would wait out the war at the home of her small-town Ohio parents, one of the countless numbers of American family members shouldering the burden of being left behind.

Joe Paul, the son of a Depression-poor Kentucky sharecropper, was fresh out of high school in 1937 when he enlisted in mechanic school in the peacetime Army Air Corps. Eventually, he was able to qualify for flight school. After marriage, and with the war on, the young officer and his bride crisscrossed the country, airfield to airfield, base to base: Santa Ana, Yuma, Kissimmee, Bakersfield, Orlando, La Junta, Fresno. He volunteered for night fighters and the newly arrived and almost mythic Black Widow. A world away, the carnage continued. As Paul Hendrickson tracks his parents’ journey, together and separate, both stateside and overseas, he creates a vivid portrait of a hard-to-know father whose time in the war, he comes to understand, was something truly heroic, but never without its hidden and unhidden psychic costs.

Bringing to life an iconic moment of American history, and the tragedy of all wars, Fighting the Night is an intense and powerful story of violence and love, forgiveness and loss. And it is a tribute to those who got plunged into service, in the best years of their lives, and the sacrifices they and their loved ones made, then and thereafter.

Sponsored by: W&M Washington Center

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