How the challenging, complex world of the Marines turned a woman into an activist.
After graduating with honors from Yale, Bhagwati left her graduate studies at Columbia to join the Marines, a move that shocked her stern Indian parents, both of whom were well-respected economists. In this honest and unflinching memoir, the author briefly chronicles her early years before moving on to share the highs and lows of her time as a Marine. She discusses the brutal physicality of the training and how she pushed herself as far as she could in order to excel at every level. She often outcompeted the men in her unit and loved the strength she found deep inside herself. Bhagwati also bares the details of the sexual harassment she and other female Marines experienced, a situation that was—and still is—commonplace in many areas of the armed forces. When she left the Marines, she realized her career had left invisible yet permanent scars; she suffered from depression, low self-esteem, and a lack of sexual desire, among other ailments. Like other veterans, she turned to the VA for support, where she received mixed results. This led Bhagwati to start the Service Women’s Action Network, which advocates for military sexual harassment victims, and she also helped change some government policies regarding women serving in combat roles. Running throughout the narrative is the author’s palpable sense of confusion, dismay, and anger at the way women are treated in the military, particularly in the predominantly male domain of the Marines, and how these feelings affected her life as a civilian. Her candid story pulls back the curtain on a hidden world in which highly capable women who thrive on the challenge of being a soldier are hindered by the men who surround them.
An intense, fierce woman generously shares her instructive experiences as a Marine and how her service time turned her into an activist for women’s rights in the military.