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Necessary Targets: A Story of Women and War

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In her first new work since The Vagina Monologues, her Obie Award-winning smash hit, Eve Ensler tells the story of two American women, a Park Avenue psychiatrist and a human rights worker, who go to Bosnia to help women confront their memories of war and emerge deeply changed themselves. Necessary Targets is a groundbreaking play about women and war—about the violence of d In her first new work since The Vagina Monologues, her Obie Award-winning smash hit, Eve Ensler tells the story of two American women, a Park Avenue psychiatrist and a human rights worker, who go to Bosnia to help women confront their memories of war and emerge deeply changed themselves. Necessary Targets is a groundbreaking play about women and war—about the violence of dark memories and the enduring resilience of the human spirit. Melissa, an ambitious young writer, and J.S., a successful but unsatisfied middle-aged psychiatrist, have nothing in common beyond the methods they have been taught to distance themselves from other people. As J.S. begins to feel compassion for the women whose tragedies she has been sent to expose, she turns on Melissa, who finds safety in control. In an unexpected moment of revelation, J.S. and the women she is supposedly treating find a common ground, a place to be taught and a place to learn. Necessary Targets has been staged in New York by Meryl Streep, Anjelica Huston, and Calista Flockhart, and performed in Sarajevo with Glenn Close and Marisa Tomei. From the Trade Paperback edition.


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In her first new work since The Vagina Monologues, her Obie Award-winning smash hit, Eve Ensler tells the story of two American women, a Park Avenue psychiatrist and a human rights worker, who go to Bosnia to help women confront their memories of war and emerge deeply changed themselves. Necessary Targets is a groundbreaking play about women and war—about the violence of d In her first new work since The Vagina Monologues, her Obie Award-winning smash hit, Eve Ensler tells the story of two American women, a Park Avenue psychiatrist and a human rights worker, who go to Bosnia to help women confront their memories of war and emerge deeply changed themselves. Necessary Targets is a groundbreaking play about women and war—about the violence of dark memories and the enduring resilience of the human spirit. Melissa, an ambitious young writer, and J.S., a successful but unsatisfied middle-aged psychiatrist, have nothing in common beyond the methods they have been taught to distance themselves from other people. As J.S. begins to feel compassion for the women whose tragedies she has been sent to expose, she turns on Melissa, who finds safety in control. In an unexpected moment of revelation, J.S. and the women she is supposedly treating find a common ground, a place to be taught and a place to learn. Necessary Targets has been staged in New York by Meryl Streep, Anjelica Huston, and Calista Flockhart, and performed in Sarajevo with Glenn Close and Marisa Tomei. From the Trade Paperback edition.

30 review for Necessary Targets: A Story of Women and War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jacky Torrisi

    This book is actually the transcript of a play, it was a very quick read that I’d recommend. Though it is a bit dated (c 2001), the message that is presents still remains the same. Women who experience the brutalities of war suffer extreme traumas that will change their lives forever. As I stated, this book is actually a published play, therefore most of the writing is in the form of dialogue. It is a very short read, which unfortunately leaves little room for character development and more of a This book is actually the transcript of a play, it was a very quick read that I’d recommend. Though it is a bit dated (c 2001), the message that is presents still remains the same. Women who experience the brutalities of war suffer extreme traumas that will change their lives forever. As I stated, this book is actually a published play, therefore most of the writing is in the form of dialogue. It is a very short read, which unfortunately leaves little room for character development and more of a story line but the message is still clear and the story is still moving. I honestly wish it wasn’t so short because I loved the premise and I think Eve Ensler could have brought this further; but perhaps as a play it reaches production limitations and therefore can’t delve deeper into topics. Perhaps it’s meant to be left open ended to make you consider the information and research more into the topic. I enjoyed this book, Necessary Targets, better than her work The Vagina Monologues. I think it had more meaning, the message was more significant and the language was more moving. This short book will open your eyes to the world of war victims and their sufferings. It will make you thankful for the comfort & safeties of your life. It is powerful and it will stay with you. My general rating criteria: 1. Was it entertaining? Yes. It was dramatic and moving. The end was very powerful. 2. Did you learn or take anything of value from it? Yes! There is so much to be taken from this book. It will inform you of the effects of war on women and make you appreciate the things you have 3. Was it well written? It was almost too short, but the writing was poetic and the story was strong. 4. Would you read it again? Possibly, but I would probably be more interesting in seeing a performance of it instead.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Ensler tells us in the preface that she wrote this book to “make this world, this life, in all its mystery and injustice, matter.” She wrote this as a play, as a work of art, so the audience can “experience what we experience, to see what the front of us, to allow the truth in, with all its sorrow and brutality, because in the theater we are not alone... We are there, for these moments together, joined by what we see and hear, made stronger, hopefully, by what opens us.” I think she succeeds ind Ensler tells us in the preface that she wrote this book to “make this world, this life, in all its mystery and injustice, matter.” She wrote this as a play, as a work of art, so the audience can “experience what we experience, to see what the front of us, to allow the truth in, with all its sorrow and brutality, because in the theater we are not alone... We are there, for these moments together, joined by what we see and hear, made stronger, hopefully, by what opens us.” I think she succeeds indeed.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kristina Reardon

    It has been months since I read this play the first time, but it has still stayed with me. In part, this is because of the power of the raw emotion Ensler portrays in the Bosnian women's experiences. However, the title and the idea behind the American women who are recording their stories makes me uncomfortable. The idea that they are 'necessary targets' in a confusing sea of hurt post-genocide seems to diminish the Bosnian women's stories at the same time that it makes the American women's role It has been months since I read this play the first time, but it has still stayed with me. In part, this is because of the power of the raw emotion Ensler portrays in the Bosnian women's experiences. However, the title and the idea behind the American women who are recording their stories makes me uncomfortable. The idea that they are 'necessary targets' in a confusing sea of hurt post-genocide seems to diminish the Bosnian women's stories at the same time that it makes the American women's roles seem more noble. However, it should be noted that the story is told from the perpsective of an Ameircan psychologist who likely would view her own role that way. How else would one summon the courage to leave a comfortable life and enter a war zone to record stories? There is some nobility there, and there is certainly a struggle that first-responders (outsiders) face in responding to tragedy--whether they are doctors, nurses, resuce workers, or writers--that is often ignored and should not be. In the end, I think the play was well-written and brings an honest picture of what recording tragedy is like for an outsider--though it reaches toward representing the Bosnian experience and has therefore been mis-labled as a play about the Bosnian War. To me, this is a play about what it means to travel as an American writer, first-respodner, etc., and the guilt and confusion that one takes on when one tries to assume the role of testifying on behalf of someone else (which is often necessary). The questions this play raised are important and unique.

  4. 4 out of 5

    leslie

    What a fantastic play! Ensler really strikes a nerve when she explores the conflicts between American women and women who are Third World refugees. I think any journalist and certainly every "humanitarian" would benefit from studying the different iterations of the relationship between interviewer and interviewee, "helper" and refugee. What a fantastic play! Ensler really strikes a nerve when she explores the conflicts between American women and women who are Third World refugees. I think any journalist and certainly every "humanitarian" would benefit from studying the different iterations of the relationship between interviewer and interviewee, "helper" and refugee.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    Necessary Targets is an incredibly moving play. The characters are well developed and interesting. It was a fabulous read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Regan

    This might be the first play I've read since starting this journal. Hm. My dad wanted me to read this, to see if it would be do-able in a smaller community like Shelbyville. Also because I think he wants to talk to me about it, something for us to discuss. I can't say I liked this as much as I liked The Vagina Monologues. I see where Ensler was going, I think she's done some interesting work with the material, but overall I'm not sure that the way the story is told - the characters through whose e This might be the first play I've read since starting this journal. Hm. My dad wanted me to read this, to see if it would be do-able in a smaller community like Shelbyville. Also because I think he wants to talk to me about it, something for us to discuss. I can't say I liked this as much as I liked The Vagina Monologues. I see where Ensler was going, I think she's done some interesting work with the material, but overall I'm not sure that the way the story is told - the characters through whose eyes we primarly see it - works for me. With powerful actors it would be called a powerful piece. I am left mostly feeling uncertain if I even liked it. There's some good stuff in it, don't get me wrong, I just feel...uncertain.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elena

    Anything Eve Ensler writes, I will read. I liked this play and would be interested to see it acted live. I found Melissa to be a character that maybe needed some more closure towards the end, as I did find her relationship both the J.S. and the Bosnian women to be interested and problematic, but not fully discussed. Overall, I liked the idea of looking at war from the lens of women and the aftermath rather than the "drama" of the during that we so often focus in on. Anything Eve Ensler writes, I will read. I liked this play and would be interested to see it acted live. I found Melissa to be a character that maybe needed some more closure towards the end, as I did find her relationship both the J.S. and the Bosnian women to be interested and problematic, but not fully discussed. Overall, I liked the idea of looking at war from the lens of women and the aftermath rather than the "drama" of the during that we so often focus in on.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Danyel

    Another great play by Eve Ensler. I did not find it as satisfying as the Vagina Monologues but still engaging.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Therese Bolotin Wilson

    Powerful Sparse, a challenge to anyone who thinks they aren't capable of evil. A quick read but memorable!. Good pacing and character development Powerful Sparse, a challenge to anyone who thinks they aren't capable of evil. A quick read but memorable!. Good pacing and character development

  10. 5 out of 5

    A.Y. Berthiaume

    Powerful. Chilling. Devastating.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alli

    A picture of a cross-cultural encounter between American and Bosnian women. J.S. is an American psychiatrist traveling to a refugee camp, who enlists the "assistance" of Melissa, who can be likened to a therapist (although in the play, she said that she did not approve of that term). J.S. and Melissa are used to the comforts of America: clean sheets, modern-day plumbing, and the security that bombs won't be dropped or men with guns won't be lurking around every corner. At the refugee camp, J.S. a A picture of a cross-cultural encounter between American and Bosnian women. J.S. is an American psychiatrist traveling to a refugee camp, who enlists the "assistance" of Melissa, who can be likened to a therapist (although in the play, she said that she did not approve of that term). J.S. and Melissa are used to the comforts of America: clean sheets, modern-day plumbing, and the security that bombs won't be dropped or men with guns won't be lurking around every corner. At the refugee camp, J.S. and Melissa begin to work with a group of Bosnian women: Zlata - Zlata resists the help that J.S. and Melissa are attempting to provide. She articulates everything that J.S. and Melissa "do wrong". She feels that she and her friends are merely being exploited. She believes that J.S. and Melissa will eventually return to America, be praised for their work with refugees, and ultimately forget about them. She constantly questions the American women as to why they believe she and her fellow refugees need their help. She questions American society throughout the play. She insists that her fellow female refugees and Americans as a whole have altogether different needs. Late in the play, we learn that Zlata is an esteemed doctor who feels she has been forgotten and reduced to a helpless refugee. At one point, J.S. tells Zlata that she is a doctor, and therefore she is capable of treating her. Zlata responds with the fact that she, too, is a doctor. Also interesting to note is that Zlata refuses to be recorded or photographed. It seems that she does not want to become the subject of affluent, praised professionals when she happens to be one herself. Azra - The oldest in the group. She is from the countryside and loves to repeat stories about spending time with her cow, Blossom. Something about Blossom and perhaps the rituals that go along with owning her (milking, taking her to graze) comforts Azra. At one point, thoughts of Blossom are the only thing that get a hellishly hungover Azra out of a dirty hole in the ground, where she professes that she is dying. Azra is a traditional Bosnia woman, and is very connected to the Earth and traditionalism. Nuna - A very Americanized teenager. Although she is young, she has clearly been through something horrific and is therefore quite tough. Jelena - Struggling with her past dealing with an abusive husband. Seada - A troubled young mother. While at war, we as Americans are glued to our TV screens, watching the fighting and the carnage. It is terrifying but it draws us in and keeps our attention. We take for granted that we can watch from afar while "those" people suffer and die. When a war comes to an end, the media ceases to cover it. We are rarely given a look at the people who are trying to put their lives back together in the aftermath. I feel that this play urges people in first-world countries to look further into the aftermath of war, and not take for granted the privileged lives we lead everyday.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Aja

    Fascinating look at the after effects of war. Thought it would be a super depressing retelling of each woman's story, but the true theme was who they were after all of the terrible events had occurred. What they went through was almost not as important as the fact that they had gone through it. Realizing that this was not some war-torn area that had seen conflict since the beginning of time. In fact society before war in the former Yugslavia didn't look so different from what we have now. If you Fascinating look at the after effects of war. Thought it would be a super depressing retelling of each woman's story, but the true theme was who they were after all of the terrible events had occurred. What they went through was almost not as important as the fact that they had gone through it. Realizing that this was not some war-torn area that had seen conflict since the beginning of time. In fact society before war in the former Yugslavia didn't look so different from what we have now. If you decide to read this book, make sure to read the introduction. It's why this book got 5 stars instead of 4.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tally Song

    Not a bad read, had to read it for college :) Then I went to see the play. This was a pleasant and interesting reading experience altogether. A way different look at women's plight in the middle east. I could not imagine living like this and in such fear. Love, safety, shame, and life are tangible concepts in this book that can make anyone appreciate their good fortune to be born into a much different soceity and way of life. Not a bad read, had to read it for college :) Then I went to see the play. This was a pleasant and interesting reading experience altogether. A way different look at women's plight in the middle east. I could not imagine living like this and in such fear. Love, safety, shame, and life are tangible concepts in this book that can make anyone appreciate their good fortune to be born into a much different soceity and way of life.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I have changed my mind in the time since I wrote my first review and now. As the days went on, this play got to me and not in a good way. It lacked something and I think what it that "something" was is new material or new ground. Much of what happens in this play is already covered by The Vagina Monologues. Nothing new is being brought to the table here and as a result, felt repetitious and boring. In addition, many of the characters are annoying and hard to connect with. I have changed my mind in the time since I wrote my first review and now. As the days went on, this play got to me and not in a good way. It lacked something and I think what it that "something" was is new material or new ground. Much of what happens in this play is already covered by The Vagina Monologues. Nothing new is being brought to the table here and as a result, felt repetitious and boring. In addition, many of the characters are annoying and hard to connect with.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    A beautiful play about the other side of genocide that people rarely hear about but deserve to know and do something about. I will say I didn't love this play until I studied and performed it. This is because plays are meant to be seen, and not just read, so it is important to see the visual behind the writing of this play. If you have a chance to see it performed, SEE IT, it's worth it. A beautiful play about the other side of genocide that people rarely hear about but deserve to know and do something about. I will say I didn't love this play until I studied and performed it. This is because plays are meant to be seen, and not just read, so it is important to see the visual behind the writing of this play. If you have a chance to see it performed, SEE IT, it's worth it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Not my favorite from Eve - but it isn't entirely her story. I do always enjoy her appreciate efforts to bring to light the to the public, but I wasn't a super fan of the screenplay mode of dissemination. Not my favorite from Eve - but it isn't entirely her story. I do always enjoy her appreciate efforts to bring to light the to the public, but I wasn't a super fan of the screenplay mode of dissemination.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cherie

    A play…I'm not as much of a play person, to read them, anyway - but the story of two American women who go to Bosnia to try to help the women there, without even understanding what these women have gone through. A play…I'm not as much of a play person, to read them, anyway - but the story of two American women who go to Bosnia to try to help the women there, without even understanding what these women have gone through.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alyson

    Again, an eye opener. I read this in one sitting. First play I've ever read. Again, an eye opener. I read this in one sitting. First play I've ever read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Things we forget about war...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Bourgeois

    I participated in and directed a reading of this play. It was heartbreaking to step into the shoes of these beautiful damaged women.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jackie Shea

    I was disappointed. This play has potential, but it really did not carry weight. It's an extremely touching subject poorly executed. I was disappointed. This play has potential, but it really did not carry weight. It's an extremely touching subject poorly executed.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  23. 5 out of 5

    Meg Deere

  24. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  27. 4 out of 5

    Myranda Kessler

  28. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  29. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brandi Braker

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