FORMATION by Ryan Leigh Dostie


A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line
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Dostie’s debut memoir describes the journey of a woman soldier struggling to survive and compete in a system that demanded she fall in line.

Though she hoped to travel and attend college after high school, a meeting with a recruiting officer led to Dostie’s enrollment in the Army, where she became a Persian-Farsi/Dari linguist in military intelligence. There are two main stories here: The first one traces the aftermath of rape. The author was raped by a fellow soldier, and she details what seems like deliberate incompetence in the handling of the case through official channels. In addition to the emotional fallout of rape, she also faced the cruelty of seeing her attacker and his friends nearly every day. Discussing how her account of the events and her credibility were undermined, Dostie exposes how pervasive bias functions in this guarded system. Despite many challenges, the author managed to do what she was trained to do: follow orders. When she found herself on the front lines in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, determination and growing rage fueled her survival. The second story follows the development of a bruised but not defeated soldier struggling with PTSD, coping with the challenges of adjusting to civilian life, and contemplating the political and philosophical issues involved in the war. Dostie successfully navigated life at home, and she ably demonstrates the contrast between developing agency and a strong sense of self after sexual assault and the demands of the Army power structure, which expected more obedience than independence. Each of these narratives deserves to be heard, and though they may have been stronger as two pieces, Dostie does a service by frankly confronting the hypermasculinized culture of the armed forces.

An occasionally uneven but unquestionably inspiring story traversing the personal and public battlefields of sexual assault in the armed forces.

Pub Date: June 4th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5387-3153-6
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2019


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