- Lifesaving Labradors: Stories from Families with Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dogs (2014)
- Soldier’s Son (2004) Jackson, MS: The University Press of Mississippi
- Many academic publications.
by Albert Oppenheimer (SHS)
Born in the small town of Masontown, Pennsylvania, in the early 1940’s, Ben W. McClelland never knew his father because his father Ewing R. “Pete” McClelland was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and killed on December 23, 1944, when the German POW camp in which he was held a prisoner was bombed by the Allies during the Second World War. Ben, his twin sister Mary Jane, and an older brother Petie Dick were raised by his mother MaryAnne Wright McClelland (who was a second grade school teacher and later became a postmaster) and his extended family of Wrights.
McClelland earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in English at Indiana University. In 2000, at the age of fifty-six, he decided to visit his father’s grave in Europe at the American Military Cemetery near Margraten in the Netherlands. Visiting his father’s grave helped McClelland to come to grips with his own identity.
McClelland is the Holder of the Ottilie Schillig Chair in English Composition at the University of Mississippi. He was previously director of the freshmen English program until 1999 and then the Writing Project of Ole Miss from 1987 to 2000. His published writing consisted mainly of textbooks and professional works before he wrote his memoir called Soldier’s Son, which is part of the Willie Morris Book in Memoir and Biography series. He is now working on new projects in fiction.
A Review of Soldier’s Son
by Albert Oppenheimer (SHS)
Soldier’s Son by Ben W. McClelland is a heartfelt memoir about McClelland’s life as a young child growing up without a father. Using detailed and masterfully-narrated tales of family mishaps and adventures, McClelland draws the reader into his universe and his family’s life. Even though he only gets into detail about the absence of his father in the later half of the book, the reader can still feel the void in the young man’s life.
The touching story reveals how his extended family takes him in and places him under their collective, and sometimes dubious, protection; each one treating Ben as his or her own son. After his pilgrimage to Europe to his father’s grave, McClelland says, “I saw the memorial to him. I acknowledged his sacrifice for me, indeed for all of us for whom he died. The pilgrimage enabled me…to gain another view on my dad’s identity–as well as a better grasp on mine.”
In Soldier’s Son McClelland presents an almost complete genealogy of his entire family tree, dating back to the Mayflower. As we encounter each family member, we are introduced to an entire personality, not just a passing mention, but an entire life history of each individual family member, complete with funny stories and inspiring quotes. If you are a fan of family lineage and enjoy learning the history of some people and small towns during war time, then this book is definitely for you. If that stuff doesn’t really get your motor running, then you might find it a bit dry and difficult to read through the many pages of detailed biography, but overall, Soldier’s Son is a decent read.
- Ben W. McClelland’s home page has much information on both McClelland and Soldier’s Son.
- Ben McClelland signs Lifesaving Labradors. Square Books, 2014
- Lifesaving Labradors website
- “Ben W. McClelland.” University Department of English. 2000. 4 March 2000.
- McClelland, Ben W. Soldier’s Son: University Press of Mississippi. Mississippi, 2004. “Soldier’s Son.” 2004.