I bought this book for the title. What I got was an insightful look at the human condition as seen through the eyes of a fellow service member.
I joined the Navy at a young age and it’s very different from the Army. Yet many of the experiences William’s describes are similar to those I’ve encountered in my career. Reading this book felt like I was both watching the early years of my career and learning about a whole new world that is the Army.
Williams is honest about her time in Army. She doesn’t try to gloss over her actions or claim she always made the right decisions.
She talks about her conflict between going with the flow of her fellow service members and struggling with her personal ethics: interacting with the locals and seeing their poverty; participating in interrogation; choosing whether or not to report fellow service members for crossing the line, and living with her decisions.
Williams experiences the camaraderie and the disappointment that many female service members face in being judged by their gender rather than their merits. The topic is so blunt and upfront in her writing, she addresses it in the books first line. “Sometimes even now I wake up before dawn and forget I am not a slut.” As uncomfortable as it is, the reader benefits from following her through Iraq and find out, why she thinks this. What is it about the environment of war that causes soldiers to label each other and act out in ways they would’t back home?
William’s story is not an exceptional one. She won’t take you to capture Saddam Hussein, but her experiences are an important portal into the ever growing population of women in the military.
Her job as a translator makes her uniquely equipped to show you the heart and soul of the people she meets and how the war affects people on both sides. She will introduce you to the people she meet and show you a very human experience that many young Americans have gone through in the military. Some of the things she has seen may haunt you as they haunt her.
I think reading her story is an important look at what women serving in the military experience across all branches of service.