A deeply personal portrait of war in the twenty-first century.

Each day leading up to the April 14 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2012 Memoir & Creative Nonfiction Finalist:

The Last Deployment: How a Gay, Hammer-Swinging Twentysomething Survived a Year in Iraq
Bronson Lemer

The University of Wisconsin Press

Category Sponsor: Leonard, Street and Deinard


Army veteran Bronson Lemer chronicles his year-long tour of duty in Iraq, capturing the absurd nuances of a soldier’s daily life: growing a mustache to disguise his fear, wearing pantyhose to battle sand fleas, and exchanging barbs with Iraqis while driving through Baghdad. But most strikingly, he describes the poignant reality faced by gay servicemen and servicewomen, who must mask their identities while serving a country that disowns them.

An excerpt from The Last Deployment:

In a dimly lit restaurant, I stare back at the only man I’ve ever loved. It’s the end of January 2008, and this is the first time I’ve seen him in seven years. I’ve come to tell him that I still love him and to resolve some unfinished business I thought we had from when we dated in 2000 and 2001, but looking at him now, I realize that I’ve probably made a mistake.


Bronson Lemer served in the North Dakota Army National Guard for six years, including deployments to Kosovo and Iraq. His writing has appeared in Blue Earth Review, The Rekjavik Grapevine, and Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers. He teaches English and humanities courses at Turtle Mountain Community College near Belcourt, North Dakota.


“This book illustrates how self-acceptance is not something that can always just be taken for granted. It stirs feelings of empathy like none other.”
– Minnesota Book Awards judge

“Lemer writes with clarity, temperance, and an eye for detail… Without ever becoming polemical, the book shows graphically how ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ cruelly affects gay soldiers who play by the rules.”
– David Bergman, editor of Gay American Autobiography: Writings from Whitman to Sedaris

“This is extremely touching material. Lemer describes the emotional turbulence of being gay in the military, tortured with the strong natural desire to connect with his fellow soldiers yet unable to reveal himself because of his sexuality. There is real pain in that kind of personal concealment, and it permeates this moving, substantive account.”
– Bay Area Reporter

“An important contribution to national debate… A book we should have on the president’s desk as soon as possible.”
– Tim Miller, author of Body Blows and 1001 Beds


Bronson Lemer briefly presented his book at the 2012 Minnesota Book Awards Readers’ Choice Event, March 16, 2012 at The Loft Literary Center. (Again, apologies for the hand-held video)



Award winners will be announced at the 24th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel – Saint Paul Riverfront. The opening reception begins at 7 p.m. followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. New this year: a post-awards “Epilogue Celebration.” Tickets are available online or by calling 651-222-3242. Click here for more information.

Have you read The Last Deployment? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!


Bronson Lemer is on Facebook

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