War & Secrets: Howard Mansfield, I WILL TELL NO WAR STORIES & Sasha Vasilyuk, YOUR PRESENCE IS MANDATORY

In this episode of Writer’s Voice, we feature two stories about war and secrets. First, we talk with Howard Mansfield about his book, I Will Tell No War Stories: What Our Fathers Left Unsaid About World War II. The book uncovers the truth about the terrible toll that war took on American airmen like Mansfield’s father—revealing the real story behind the much touted “glory.”

Then we talk with journalist Sasha Vasilyuk about her terrific debut novel, Your Presence Is Mandatory (publication date 4/23/24). It hews closely to her own family’s history, particularly her Jewish Ukrainian grandfather’s hidden past as a World War II prisoner of war.

Writers Voice— in depth conversation with writers of all genres, on the air since 2004. Find us on Facebook at Writers Voice with Francesca Rheannon, on Instagram @WritersVoicePodcast or find us on X/Twitter @WritersVoice.

Key Words: author interview, memoir, fiction, book podcast, Writer’s Voice, WWII, Soviet Union, nonfiction

Read The Transcript

Howard Mansfield

It’s a phenomenon: why did so few American veterans of WWII ever talk about their experience of war?

That’s something Howard Mansfield set out to discover when, shortly before his father died, he came across a battered diary his dad had kept while flying bomber missions over Germany.

In his new book, I Will Tell No War Stories, Mansfield suggests that the sheer magnitude of the war, the harsh conditions of aerial combat and the emotional toll of witnessing destruction and loss, including of civilian populations made it hard for veterans to articulate their experiences.

Also playing a part? The cultural expectation of stoicism and a desire to shield future generations from the horrors of war.

Mansfield’s book serves as a reminder of the individual sacrifices and collective traumas endured by those who served in World War II. But it also holds lessons for us today about confronting the truth about the real human cost of war, wherever and whenever it happens.

In addition to I Will Tell No War Stories, Howard Mansfield is the author of The Habit of Turning The World Upside Down, Chasing Eden and Dwelling In Possibility, among others.

Listen to our previous interviews with Howard Mansfield

Sasha Vasilyuk

Sasha Vasilyuk’s journey from Soviet Crimea to the United States is a testament to the complexities of identity and history. Born in a region marked by geopolitical shifts and historical turmoil, Vasilyuk’s experiences shaped her perspective and inspired her novel, Your Presence Is Mandatory.

Through her family’s history, particularly her Jewish Ukrainian grandfather’s hidden past as a World War II prisoner of war, Vasilyuk explores themes of secrecy, shame, and the impact of totalitarian regimes on personal and collective narratives.

Beautifully written, with a vivid cast of characters, Your Presence is Mandatory is a deeply moving contemplation of how secrets breed shame and suffering, even when they are held in order to protect others from political persecution. It’s also a cautionary tale for Americans as we confront authoritarian threats to our own democracy.

Sasha Vasilyuk’s nonfiction work has been published in The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, BBC, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. Your Presence is Mandatory is her first novel.