a preponderance of punctuation marks (reedrover) wrote,
a preponderance of punctuation marks
reedrover

Book Review: Love My Rifle More Than You

While in California, I finished reading Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army, by Kayla Williams. While assuredly not my usual topic of interest, I definitely found this book to be an interesting read. Williams gives her readers enough about her early years for us to understand that she is from a loving but disintegrating family life, has a strong sense of right that is often smothered by insecurities, and an odd relationship with the truths of her Army career. I got the impression from the writing that Williams found many aspects bothersome and many things painful, but like a bruise on her arm, she had to keep poking at them to see where exactly they hurt and how much.

The top two editorial reviews posted on Amazon are reasonably accurate, though I disagree slightly with each one. I didn't find most of the sexual harassment commentary very surprising at all, nor was I surprised to find out about the severe double standards she faced for "dissing" a guy stateside or read about her lack of a formal report of the one specific physical encounter she suffered. I was more surprised by her perception and descriptions of the lack of competency in her immediate superior officers. And yes, here's where my double standard shows - I would have expected that the female officers would have been especially competent rather than stunningly incompetent, simply from having to survive in that male-dominated environment. Shows what I know/knew about it.

When I got to the section describing William's participation in the abuse of prisoners, I shut my eyes, and the book. I almost didn't pick the book back up to finish, because I did not want to read about - to actively acknowledge - that my country's Army did that. I finally did pick the book back up. I wanted to know how she faced it herself, and if she talked about the morality of her choice. Um, no, what was I thinking? She briefly touched on her discomfort and coulda-shouldas (just like in the harassment section), told her readers that she walked away from the situation, and moved on with the story.

It is interesting to read and experience as she responds to the day-to-day requirements of the Army. She has a running commentary of questions and doubts about the orders and order of things in the Army. She also stops to tell us about the few moments of grace and hope (the rifle returned to the monastery) and camaraderie (hiking in the mountains) she has while she is in Iraq. But let me tell you, this book is not deep. It is not insightful. It is not pretty or hopeful or generous. It is a single-focus, single-depth narration of one woman's experience in the Army with a sprinkling of background and wash of surface motivations and explanations. In short, it's a choppy, ego-centric, short-tempered and frustrated narration of an unreal time in William's life.

Read it anyway. It's not a great work of literature, but it's a different perspective from the mainstream on many difficult topics.
Tags: books
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