“Brave, honest, and necessary.”—Nancy Pearl, NPR Seattle
Kayla Williams is one of the 15 percent of the U.S. Army that is female, and she is a great storyteller. With a voice that is “funny, frank and full of gritty details” (New York Daily News), she tells of enlisting under Clinton; of learning Arabic; of the sense of duty that fractured her relationships; of being surrounded by bravery and bigotry, sexism and fear; of seeing 9/11 on Al-Jazeera; and of knowing she would be going to war.
With a passion that makes her memoir “nearly impossible to put down” (Buffalo News) Williams shares the powerful gamut of her experiences in Iraq, from caring for a wounded civilian to aiming a rifle at a child. Angry at the bureaucracy and the conflicting messages of today’s military, Williams offers us “a raw, unadulterated look at war” (San Antonio Express News) and at the U.S. Army. And she gives us a woman’s story of empowerment and self-discovery.
Williams's account of her Iraq service tries very hard to be a fresh and wised-up postfeminist take: Private Benjamin by way of G.I. Jane. Showy rough language peppers every paragraph, and Williams's obsessive self-concern, expressed in a lot of one-sentence paragraphs beginning with "I," verges on the narcissistic. The surprise is the degree to which the account succeeds and even echoes military memoirists from Julius Caesar to Ernie Pyle. The fear, bad weather, intermittent supplies, inedible meals (especially for the vegetarian author) and crushing boredom of life in the field are all here. Williams's particular strength is in putting an observant, distaff spin on the bantering and brutality of barracks life, where kids from the Survivor generation must come to terms with a grim and confusing reality over which they have little control. The differences are less in the sexual dynamics (which mostly are an extension of office politics) than the contradictions of the conflict in which the troops are engaged, which Williams embodies more than illuminates. She learns Arabic; there's a Palestinian boyfriend and a short, failed marriage to an Iraqi civilian. While an ex-punk, Chomsky-reading liberal, Williams questions the day-to-day conduct of the war without ever really engaging with its underlying rationale. Such nuance, though, might be too much to ask.
Who the heck is Michael Staub?
Why does IBooks have Michael Staub listed as the author rather than Kayla Williams?!