Turnipseed, Joel 1968-

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TURNIPSEED, Joel 1968-

(Joel Hernandez)


Born June 11, 1968, in Duluth, MN; changed last name to Hernandez; married Lyra Hernandez. Education: Studied philosophy and creative writing at University of Minnesota. Hobbies and other interests: Playing Go.


Home—Minneapolis, MN. Agent—Ann Day, Viking Penguin Publicity, The Penguin Group, 375 Hudson Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10014-3657.


Has worked as a software developer and technical writer; founder, Archemedia (software company), 2000-02. Military service: U.S. Marine Corps, 1990-91, served in transport division in Operation Desert Shield/Storm.


Loft Creative Nonfiction Award, 1995; Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship, 1998; Bread Loaf Scholar in Creative Nonfiction, 1998.


Baghdad Express: A Gulf War Memoir, Borealis Books (St. Paul, MN), 2003.

Contributor to periodicals, including GQ and New York Times Magazine, and to Salon.com.


Homeless, a college dropout, and AWOL from the Marine Corps Reserve, Joel Turnipseed agreed to return to active duty when his unit was called up for service in Operation Desert Shield. He soon found himself in the Sixth Motor Transport Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps, hauling explosives and ammunition across the deserts to the troops on the frontlines.

In Baghdad Express: A Gulf War Memoir, he recounts his experiences as a reluctant Marine, whose cynical humor and sackful of philosophy books set him apart, at least at first. As reviewer Paul Demko explained on the City Pages Web site, the book is "more of a coming-of-age memoir than a chronicle of bloodshed: Turnipseed's aptitude for dark humor and philosophical ruminations proves greater than his skill at firing off M-16 rounds." Gradually, Turnipseed finds a place in the Dog Pound, his base in Saudi Arabia, where the white Midwestern philosophy major is taken up by a largely black unit from the streets of North Philly, who nickname him "Professor." While driving trucks full of high explosives undermines his initial faith in the sufficiency of philosophical ideas, the "Professor's" memoir remains thoughtful and questioning throughout. "Turnipseed's Gulf War is fought mainly within his psyche: 'Alone. Without guns.' In the telling of this battle, gritty, no-frills honesty is perhaps the author's greatest gift. This book is not for the 'my country-right-or-wrong' crowd or for those who seek solace or vindication in moral absolutes," wrote Sarah T. Williams in the Star Tribune.



Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), March 16, 2003, Sarah T. Williams, review of Baghdad Express: A Gulf War Memoir, p. 15F.


City Pages, www.citypages.com/ (March 5, 2003), Paul Demko, "Desert Fatugues."