Book Review: Jennine Capó Crucet’s ‘Make Your Home Among Strangers’

In Make Your Home Among Strangers, Jennine Capó Crucet explores what it’s like to be part of a second generation: in this case, through the fictional account of Cuban-American Lizet Ramirez, born and raised in Miami, who leaves home against her Cuban-exile parents’ wishes to attend  an Ivy-League college in the Northeast. It’s a decision that will carry ramifications for the rest of Lizet’s life.

crucet

At the fictional Rawlings University, Lizet is thrown into an unfamiliar, upper-class, mostly-Caucasian culture. There are “arch sings.” There is snow. It’s no wonder that she misses home, misses her parents and her sister Leidy and her sweetly macho boyfriend Omar. Was leaving Miami a terrible mistake? Has Lizet damaged her relationship with her parents, sister, and Omar forever?

And if she builds a future for herself in the process, is that a fair enough trade?
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Lizet’s college experience–alternately confounding, humorous, disorienting and surreal– is convincingly written by Crucet, who similarly moved straight from Miami to upstate New York to attend Cornell University. Apparently, her writer’s eye didn’t miss a thing.

crucet2author Jennine Capó Crucet

The skewering of Ivy League culture through the eyes of an on-the-fringe Latina is amusing, but it’s only the funny veneer over the heart of a deeply thoughtful novel. This book aches with loss.

The difference between Lizet and her family may not just be that she left home and they stayed; it may be that she even thought about leaving. The moment Lizet voices her intentions, she becomes suspect. She cannot go home again.

But she tries. At first, she’s optimistic: she’ll fly back to Miami on break. Omar hopes to save his money for a visit (an idea which never feels entirely probable). The effort she makes is touching, and, heartbreakingly, never reciprocated; it’s an effort we, as readers, bear witness to as her family willfully ignores it. Her natural loyalty to them is constantly, unfairly at odds with her desire to gain an education. Life at Rawlings is endlessly humbling for her and yet still offers more potential than any other path she might take.

Back in Miami, her people are hotheaded, loyal, clannish. Leidy greets her surprise visit with, “What the fuck are you doing here?” and the expectation that Lizet will watch her baby. Omar is startled and thrilled at her arrival. He wants to marry her. More immediately, he hopes she will wear a skirt and have sex with him in his Integra (a desire Lizet, against her better judgment and ethics given her hesitation about their relationship, shares). Her mother wants her to come along to the next Ariel Hernandez [Elian Gonzalez]rally, and her father’s just plain M.I.A.

They all have opinions about Lizet, they each have their own brand of love. But none of them seem to  know exactly what to do with her.
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Complicating matters, her first visit home is concurrent with the arrival of Ariel Hernandez (the aforementioned, fictionalized version of Elian Gonzalez) from Cuba, rescued by the Coast Guard after watching his mother and all but two others on his raft drown on the voyage.

At first, Lizet is only moderately curious about the case, which galvanizes Miami; she’s mostly interested in catching up with her people. But then her mother, recently divorced and dealing with Lizet’s inexplicable, faraway move, takes up Ariel’s cause to a degree that Lizet and her sister find uncomfortable and embarrassing. Soon it seems that her mother has almost found a new family with the Gonzaleses — bringing up painful feelings in Lizet and Leidy. Did their own family leave so much to be desired that their mom must go out and cast her lot– publicly, no less– with a new one altogether?

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I remembered the Elian Gonzalez case to some extent, though of course, taking place in 2000, it was soon overshadowed in my memory, as news stories go, by 9/11. I had never been to Florida and had no stake in the whole story, but still, I recalled that it was everywhere. Make Your Home Among Strangers deals with the case intriguingly enough that I was inspired to read about it again. I was reminded what a truly big deal the story was at the time, even outside the Cuban-American community. This photo, in particular, jogged my memory,

Elian

and gave me a goosebumpy insight into Crucet’s fictionalized account of the raid on the Gonzalez home, in which INS agents removed the young boy at gunpoint. Crucet’s retelling of the raid is particularly intense and illuminating, and after learning more about the Elian Gonzalez affair, I went back and re-read it. The scene holds up well against the actual events of the raid; being told through fiction, it offers a personal, cultural, significant look into the event that a Wikipedia entry could never give. I felt like I could see the house, its closets and picture frames and stuffed animals, the distraught crowd, the terrified boy.

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I should explain that, although her intentions are generally good and she’s trying her best, Lizet is no martyr. She can be sour and myopic; she’s catty about the white girls on her dorm floor, who are, to a girl, embarrassingly stupid. But that is what makes her real. And so too is one heartbreak of the novel, which is her dodgy, never-quite-one-hundred-percent betrayal of Omar, who is perhaps too loyal, too unquestioning, and too kind for her. That she recognizes this is painful — and not just for Omar.

That first semester of college…I started to tell anyone who asked that Omar was a brute…It seemed like what other people wanted to hear. Omar looked the part, with his earrings and the close-cut hair and goatee, the wide shoulders, the dark brows, him leaning on his Integra and throwing a sideways peace sign in almost every photo of him I owned. The girls on my floor would ask, Is that a gang sign?, and instead of saying, No, you’re an idiot, I said, Maybe, who knows with Omar?…When everyone around you thinks they know what your life is like, it’s easier to play in to that idea–it was easier for me to make Omar sound like a psycho papi chulo who wanted to control me.

Lizet’s bittersweet dismissal of Omar is sad, but there are other, greater aches in this novel as well. I don’t want to give them away here, but the ending of the book is downright perfect– opening into a scale just broad enough, just tender enough, to make you feel a pang as you close the pages.

Home and family are everything–Lizet makes that clear. But for some people, they need to be overridden. Moving past the very things that made you you may be, if Lizet’s story is any indication, one of the most unsparing afflictions of humankind, one of the most American, the most common, the most dreaded, the most necessary.

Crucet, Jennine Capó. Make Your Home Among Strangers. St. Martin’s, August 2015.

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Buy Make Your Home Among Strangers here

Kirkus Review of Make Your Home Among Strangers

Read more about Jennine Capó Crucet

 

 

‘A Lonely Woman is a Dangerous Woman’: Tiffany Hawk reviews ‘Hausfrau: A Novel’

reviewed by Tiffany Hawk (Air Force)

“Anna was a good wife, mostly.” So goes the already famous opening line of poet Jill Alexander Essbaum’s exquisitely written debut novel.

hausfrau
The qualifier creates instant conflict, but so do the words preceding that notorious comma. This woman’s entire life comes down to her role as spouse. Many reviewers have questioned that very premise in a day when no middle class woman can possibly feel so trapped, or bored, or lonely that, like Emma Bovary or Anna Karenina, she destroys herself while trying to feel alive.

Unlike the heroines of nineteenth century literature, as Slate reviewer Ruth Graham claims, an American woman like Essbaum’s Anna Benz “is free to do just about anything she wants.” Why doesn’t she have more friends? Why doesn’t she get a job? A divorce? Why can’t she tell her husband about her unhappiness?

hausfrau2

As a military wife, I don’t find Anna’s desperation hard to buy. My husband has had assignments that came with active spouse communities, oodles of kid-friendly events, a key spouse and command spouse who checked up on me during deployments. We’ve also has assignments that left me alone in the boonies with two kids, no childcare (thus no ability to work), no squadron support or community, an often absent husband, long winters and…you’re starting to get the picture.

Granted, Anna’s banker husband, Bruno, is not in the military. But his job does call him abroad, and like many of us, Anna follows. In her case, they move to a bland suburb in Switzerland, “where a smile will give you away as an American.” She feels isolated in this Switzerdeutsch-speaking community and spends her time with three small children while her husband focuses on his career, which fortunately provides them a very comfortable living. Comfortable enough that we ask, “How can she complain?”

How indeed. It can be hard to ask for help when you have a well-to-do life with a generally well-intentioned, well-providing husband. Telling him about your dissatisfaction might help, or it might make matters worse, even if he isn’t as cold as Anna’s Bruno. Substitute Bruno’s self-absorption with OPSEC or morale, and you have a familiar gulf of unspoken concerns and unmet needs.

Instead of asking for change, we’re supposed to be grateful. In fact, we are grateful. I know I am. And therein lies the rub. I’m thankful to have food on the table (and a nice bottle of Napa cab on occasion), and God knows I’m relieved not to be advertising my attributes on Match.com. So when times were tough, I sucked it up. Or worse, I told myself I was happier than ever, so blessed, living the dream. After all, I knew what I was getting into. And what I stood to lose.

TiffanyHawk_post-500x500Tiffany Hawk

I’ve never been, or known any military wife who was, as lost as Anna Benz, who escapes her tedium with a series of fiery, page-turning, graphically-rendered affairs. (Wouldn’t that give us something to talk about at the next spouse coffee?!) But what about other addictions or destructive and alienating behaviors?

Here’s a less titillating, but all too common example. Ever heard a mom slam another mom for a perceived parenting failure? Of course you have. Does she really, truly care whether or not that other mother was feeding her child from her breast? Or letting her baby cry for a few minutes in the middle of the night? Or, instead, is she, are we, so bored and so unwilling to admit to our own desperate ennui that we construct a dissertation’s worth of judgments just to engage our minds? Then heatedly post them on Facebook in order to feel seen.

As Dr. Messerli, Anna’s psychoanalyst and the book’s philosophical compass, says, “A lonely woman is a dangerous woman…A lonely woman is a bored woman. Bored women act on impulse.”

Even in the twenty-first century, loneliness and domestic boredom abound. Military members and civilians alike relocate for work with record frequency, and the average American woman probably only sees her neighbors as they drive into the garage each night.

Hausfrau’s detractors are correct in saying we have far more options than the women of yore, but it can be incredibly difficult to exercise those options, especially for those who PCS every other year. As our careers wither, we turn our ambitions to baking Pinterest pastries and selling Scentsy candles, and we try our damndest to convince ourselves we’re fulfilled. Then we secretly ask, “What’s wrong with me that this isn’t enough?”

So, no, I don’t find it impossible to believe that Anna doesn’t finally see a therapist, invest in friendships, or go back to school until it’s far too late. (Like her nineteenth century counterparts, she faces gruesome consequences for her actions.)
Though Anna is exceptionally listless and her despondency does grow wearying, Hausfrau is not anachronistic. Laws and social mores may have changed since Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina screwed around, but we still heed their warning – don’t ask for more or you will be ruined.

Essbaum’s protagonist is ruined indeed, but her message is different. She does not suggest we lie in the beds we made. She asks us to admit it already – being a good wife just isn’t enough.

Essbaum, Jill Alexander. Hausfrau. Random House, 2015.

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Buy Hausfrau here

New York Times review of Hausfrau

‘Don’t Judge a Book By its Cover’: The Cover Design process for Hausfrau (fascinating!!)

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About the Reviewer:

Tiffany Hawk is a former flight attendant with a BA from UCLA and an MFA from UC Riverside. Her debut novel, Love Me Anyway, was published in 2013 by St. Martin’s Press, and her short fiction and personal essays have appeared in such places as The New York Times, The Potomac Review, StoryQuarterly, and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” She has also worked as travel editor at Coast magazine and as a freelance journalist for publications that include the Los Angeles Times, Sunset, CNN.com, GQ.com, and National Geographic Traveler. She is a private writing coach and has taught writing workshops at Rutgers University, Southern New Hampshire University, and The Writer’s Center in DC.

A slightly more personal look, from Tiffany herself:

  • “I married a pilot. Cliché, I know. And we’re total airplane geeks. We quote Top Gun, talk in airline jargon, and we never tire of watching Air Force One fly by our home at Andrews AFB.”
  • “Since leaving home, I’ve moved 19 times and lived on both US coasts as well as in London. The longest I’ve spent in one residence is 2 1/2 years. The shortest is something like three months.”

Tiffany’s own acclaimed novel, the “darkly funny, compulsively readable” Love Me Anyway, can be purchased here and will be discussed on your faithful Mil Spouse Book Review in upcoming weeks. (Editor’s Note: My Mom gave it five stars!)

A Little Territory of Murder: True Detective, Season Two

** contains spoilers**
** and Legos**

True_Detective_Lego1I don’t write about television much on this blog, but I watch my fair share. And like many people I finished up the second season of True Detective last night and found my mind all aswirl with it well into the morning. I know this season had its problems; still, I looked forward to it on Sunday evenings, perhaps mostly for Colin Farrell’s incredible acting and the fun of sinking into a show so moody, so gritty and potent and hell-bent on its own weird vision, that it was like skipping a cup of coffee just to gnaw on the grounds.

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I’ll confess that, going in, I was anxious for the show’s writer, Nic Pizzolatto, and I don’t even know the guy. Season One had been a sensation, and I was as caught up in it as anybody. As a writer, I wanted so badly for Pizzolatto to be able to duplicate that brand of crazy magic he had going last year.

And then, as a writer, I was disappointed–but, to my surprise, also relieved–that he didn’t quite manage it.

This was not out of schadenfreude, but because the whole gamble of art, the whole reason writers are such obsessive and desperate individuals, is that we are aiming, always, for that kind of magic. For one person to hoard it, to be able to tap into it at will as if there were some easy formula — that would ruin it for everybody, the writer and the audience alike. It would be like the magician at a kid’s birthday party plopping down, lighting a cigarette, and dully outlining the trick behind every single illusion he was about to perform.

We know now, after season two, that that magic is still the ideal, and it is still out there. Sometimes, some of us may hit on it. Most of the time, we won’t. In the off-chance that we do– those moments when we’re writing and the reader is totally invested and the story is going gangbusters for the door–we’ll know what that feels like, and we’d sure better enjoy it, because it might be a while before we strike it again.

—–

There are many things I appreciate about the vision of True Detective: the moodiness, the country noir, the way Pizzolatto writes dialogue (even if Vince Vaughn struggled mightily to deliver it), the preoccupation with human suffering. “Pain is inexhaustible,” detective Ray Velcoro says, “It’s only people that get exhausted”: which, of all the things there are on earth to write about, seems one of the truest. Pizzolatto wants to show you a thousand lives (and not just the thousand lives of Rust Cohle), which is both a humanitarian impulse and was, perhaps, part of the problem with Season Two —  viewers complained it had too many characters, too many plot points, and I agree that it was strangely diffuse where Season One was incredibly honed.

But what I think was more of a problem was the fact that in Season One, the audience got to feel like a participant. We got to be detectives. The story was being revealed from the ground up.

In Season Two, I felt like every bit of information was coming at me too hard, from the top down. I was being told. There was no real room for the viewers to form opinions, or theories; there was no room to defend a character or indict him; there was, really, nothing to debate ’round the water cooler. This was the difference I felt the most.IMG_5026

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But back to the show’s preoccupation with suffering, which I think is significant. Pizzolatto is attuned to the psychic suffering of the individual and he renders it very well. That’s part of what has kept me on-board with the show even when others dropped it last season, disturbed by the violence (in particular, violence against women and children). Violence can certainly be useless and exploitative in some iterations, but at its most effective, what it does is express a power differential. There’s probably nothing truer about human history, about American history, than the endless changeover of wealth and power.

That’s what Pizzolatto was going for, I think, with all the overhead shots of the fields and floodplains and the highways snaking endlessly up the nearly-thousand-mile coastline of mythical California. A century and a half ago, people from the east coast and the midwest came to California and sent back postcards to their families left behind. “I’ve seen the elephant,” the pre-printed postcards said. California was the myth and the legend, the unseen thing. It was the land of milk and honey, human potential ungoverned, everything for the taking. If people could go wild, if they could grab what they saw, how would a place turn out?: California.

Violence, in True Detective, serves a purpose: it’s a barometer. It illustrates who has power at any given time and it shows you that power is rarely fair. Every day, people enact multilayered violences against one another. Some are truly unfair. Others contain a modicum of justice. Whole cultures, Ani tells Ray, would have condoned what he did (kill the man who hurt his wife).

There’s a secular grace built into True Detective, and it takes the form of identifying another person’s suffering and meeting them there. You don’t know, Pizzolatto is saying, what goes on in the house next-door to yours. You don’t know what’s going on with the woman in the next cube. The writer’s imperative is to illuminate this: the struggle of the individual, the beauty in the horror; the light and the dark, always at war.

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I’m going to end–because it’s late and because this is my blog, dangit!– with a little personal nod to a trope that came back several times in the show this season: that of the vulture, the carrion-eater. The opportunist ever-eager to clean up the mess.

I grew up in northern California, in a slight hick-pocket of an otherwise very classy vineyard town, on an oaky old hillside littered with acorns. Deer led their fawns through our yard on misty mornings, wild turkeys bobbed shyly through the dry grass, and vultures circled daily, silent and commonplace as flags. I once stood out behind the house at sunset and felt a whoosh of air above my head without even hearing it: it was a ghost-white owl, swooping just above me and landing like a specter in a tree, with just enough contrast to the gloaming to be dimly seen.

I was amazed by that owl but it was always the vultures I liked best, ever-present and dutiful in their grisly role. Occasionally, there’d be the phenomenon of looking up and seeing what looked like thirty or forty vultures overhead, so high above you would never have noticed them unless something else caught your eye. They carried on a whole life on another plane, in the thermals. How could they smell anything that far up, how did they understand to convene? I liked not knowing.

vulturesVultures (photo, mine)

Vultures featured prominently in this season of True Detective— alerting detectives Bezzarides and Woodrugh to a crime scene in one episode, and– much to my weird thrill– following right on Frank’s heels in his last moments, though whether those are supposed to be real vultures or metaphorical ones, I couldn’t say. But for Pizzolatto to explore the history of power and opportunism in California, and to include the lowly buzzard in all its significance — well, all I know is that California can keep its condors; it’s the vultures that’ll oulast us all. I couldn’t help but be reminded of this Margaret Atwood poem I’d read decades ago, “Vultures,” and if those last lines don’t speak to what Pizzolatto was doing in this season of True Detective, I don’t know what would.

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Vultures

by Margaret Atwood

Hung there in the thermal

whiteout of noon, dark ash

in the chimney’s updraft, turning

slowly like a thumb pressed down

on target; indolent V’s; flies, until they drop.

.

Then they’re hyenas, raucous

around the kill, slapping their black

umbrellas, the feathered red-eyed widows

whose pot bodies violate mourning,

the snigger at funerals,

the burp at the wake.

.

They cluster, like beetles

laying their eggs on carrion

gluttonous for a space, a little

territory of murder: food

and children.

.

Frowzy old saint, bald-

headed and musty, scrawny-

necked recluse on your pillar

of blazing air which is not

heaven: what do you make

of death, which you do not

cause, which you eat daily?

.

I make life, which is prayer.

I make clean bones,

I make a gray zinc noise

which to me is a song.

Well, heart, out of all this

carnage, could you do better?

Soldiers Who Happened to be Female: A Review of Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield

reviewed by Jerri Bell (Navy)

In her 2014 New York Times op-ed “The Things She Carried,” author Cara Hoffman noted that “stories about female veterans are nearly absent from our culture. It’s not that their stories are poorly told. It’s that their stories are simply not told in our literature, film and popular culture.” Gayle Tzemach Lemmon has taken an important step toward filling the void with her newest book, Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield.

ashley's war
In 2011 a small, select group of women from the Army and National Guard deployed to Afghanistan in direct support of special operations. Working in pairs, or solo with assistance from a female interpreter, the women of Combat Support Team Two (CST-2) accompanied teams of elite warriors – Army Rangers – on night raids in the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan, where they assisted in the search for insurgents and their weapons. The women of CST-2 were not officially engaged in ground combat. Legally a 1994 “combat exclusion” law prohibited them from serving in a direct ground combat role. But their instructors had told them: “You need to be ready to pick up your gun and use it properly. You have to be prepared to pull the trigger and kill someone without hesitation.”

In Ashley’s War, Lemmon documents the story of CST-2’s selection, training, and deployment. The backbone of the narrative is the story of Second Lieutenant Ashley White, a medic in the North Carolina National Guard. Twenty-four years old, intensely athletic, and recently married, Lieutenant White dreamed of becoming a physician’s assistant. She wanted to work as a civilian in the Special Operations community after her deployment with CST-2, and she planned to start a family with her husband Jason Stumpf, an artillery officer. Lemmon alternates between an in-depth recounting of Lieutenant White’s story and profiles of some of her equally athletic and impressive teammates. She also summarizes, with the acumen of an experienced and talented journalist, the genesis of the Combat Support Teams.

Ashley_White1_ml_150421_16x9_9922nd Lt. Ashley White (photo: abcnews.com)

Readers of Ashley’s War will be drawn into the story from the opening pages, in which Lieutenant White prepares her gear and her mindset for an upcoming night operation. They will admire the tenacity and determination of the women of CST-2 during their selection and training. They will come to feel that they know Lieutenant White’s teammates – I could easily imagine poring over maps and imagery with them in the Tactical Operations Center, or splitting a bottle of wine with any of them after duty hours (though they could keep their CrossFit workouts and fast-roping – the least athletic woman in CST-2 would have blown by me like Road Runner overtaking Wile E. Coyote). Readers will root for each woman to make the team; they will enjoy the vignettes of badassery, and cheer with every mission success. They will hold their breath when a mission goes from sugar to shit in an instant. They will feel the sore muscles, the blisters, the joy, and the heartbreak.

Female veterans will recognize the women’s camaraderie. They will say, as author Kayla Williams said to me earlier this year when she recommended the book, that Lemmon “got that part just right;” they will remember some of their own comrades and adventures with a sigh of nostalgia. Young women just entering the armed forces will find worthy role models in Lieutenant White and her teammates. Anyone who reads the book – male or female, military or civilian – will turn the last page with feelings of awe and respect for the women of CST-2. Many will shed tears during the final chapters. I certainly did.

Lemmon skillfully weaves in references to issues that have plagued military women for at least the last hundred years. One is that when the armed forces decide to recruit women or to open a new occupational specialty to them, training can be rushed or inadequate. “Commanders were impatient for the skills the female soldiers could provide,” Lemmon says, “and they wanted the women out doing their jobs now.”

The women of CST-2 deployed to Afghanistan after only one week of selection and six weeks of training, while the Rangers they served with had the benefit of a 12-36 month selection and training pipeline. In addition, despite participating in a number of scripted exercises in garrison, they trained separately from the Rangers with whom they would deploy. First Lieutenant Amber Treadmont sums up the result: “This is why they don’t want women here. These guys spend years getting trained…they test themselves physically, mentally, and every place in between, and someone thinks that a couple weeks training is any equivalent – that we deserve anything close to the accolades that these guys get? We are no better than fresh-off-the-boat privates right now.” Integration and team-building took place on the ground, in country. Their success despite suboptimal training is a credit to both CST-2 and the men of the Ranger teams.

Other reviewers have observed that the number of interesting women profiled in Ashley’s War made keeping track of them all difficult. I found that Lemmon’s descriptions brought each woman to life as a unique individual; they are so engaging that readers will wish they could spend more time with all of them. However, Lemmon could have further clarified the distinctions among the women by identifying each by her rank and surname instead of by first name, in accordance with military custom. Repeated use of the soldiers’ first names invites readers to feel closer to the women of CST-2, but the intimate tone comes at a cost to both readers and the book’s subjects.

Readers of military nonfiction – and veterans, who “read” one another’s service histories and characters in a quick scan of the rank insignia, badges, and ribbons on the uniform – can be repeatedly jarred out of the narrative by Lemmon’s constant use of the women’s first names (and by reference to Sergeant Scott Marks as “Scottie”).

Authors of military nonfiction customarily refer to soldiers and officers by rank and surname or simply by surname in descriptive passages, and limit the use of first names to dialogue where appropriate. This accurately reflects the reality of military life. Military women, like their male counterparts, refer to one another by rank and surname in the workplace. They are only on a first-name basis with women of equal or close rank, and then only in private or after hours. This basic military courtesy conveys respect for the wearer’s responsibility and leadership – respect that was actively denied to many women serving in the U.S. armed forces for half a century after the first women were sworn into the Navy and Marine Corps in World War I, through caveats and restrictions on the military rank that women could hold. The overall tone of Ashley’s War demonstrates Lemmon’s respect for and admiration of the women of CST-2. But the informality of her use of their first names throughout the book detracts from the message that the women of CST-2 were military professionals who had earned their rank and our respect: the only serious weakness in an otherwise strong story of strong women at war.

As Lemmon says, “None of these women was looking ‘to make some kind of statement’….All they wanted was a shot at going to war on a mission they believed in with America’s best fighters.” Nevertheless, the women of the Army’s Combat Support Teams set both a precedent and an example for military women of the future to follow. They competed hard for the opportunity to serve alongside the Rangers, faced unique challenges in adapting to the combat environment, and provided valuable support to the Ranger teams in Afghanistan. They willingly accepted the same risks as the Rangers on their night raids; two eventually paid the ultimate price for their service.

Ashley’s War is a well-told story and a powerful contribution to the literature about America’s military women. It is a must-read for those interested in special operations, American military action in Afghanistan, women in the armed forces, and special operations.

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Buy Ashley’s War here

Story about Ashley’s War on ABC News

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About the reviewer:

Jerri_Bell_2Jerri Bell (center, pictured on board the HMS Sheffield in 1994) is the Managing Editor for O-Dark-Thirty, the literary journal of the Veterans Writing Project. She retired from the Navy in 2008; her assignments included antisubmarine warfare in the Azores Islands, sea duty on USS Mount Whitney and HMS Sheffield, and attaché duty at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia. She has published both short fiction and nonfiction, and her work has won prizes in the West Virginia Writers annual competition and from Words After War. She and author/editor Tracy Crow (http://www.amazon.com/Red-White-True-Veterans-Families/dp/1612347010) have a book of military-themed nonfiction forthcoming from University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books in 2017.