Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
This is definitely not the official prompt, but it is the birthday of the United States Marine Corps, and I am a Marine veteran, and so fate has determined that I post this.
With the update of the Commandant’s Reading List to include two books about women servicemember’s experience (long over due) and other marginalized members of service, I’d like to not pat them on the back for doing the barest possible.
This is not an alternate Commandant’s Reading List (I’m not that arrogant, nor that tuned into the Marine Corps’ current strategic plan anymore), but some books about Marines that I’ve either enjoyed or have on my list of things to read. There’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction in here.
Unbecoming by Anuradha Bhagwati
After a lifetime of buckling to the demands of her strict Indian parents, Anuradha Bhagwati abandons grad school in the Ivy League to join the Marines—the fiercest, most violent, most masculine branch of the military—determined to prove herself there in ways she couldn’t before. Yet once training begins, Anuradha’s G.I. Jane fantasy is punctured. As a bisexual woman of color in the military, she faces underestimation at every stage, confronting misogyny, racism, sexual violence, and astonishing injustice perpetrated by those in power. I cannot begin to describe how hard I related to this book. My Goodreads review here.
Fidelis by Teresa Fazio
In 1998 Teresa Fazio signed up for the Marine Corps’ ROTC program to pay her way through MIT. After the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001, leading to the War on Terror, she graduated with a physics degree into a very different world, owing the Marines four years of active duty. At twenty-three years old and five foot one, Fazio was the youngest and smallest officer in her battalion; the combined effect of her short hair, glasses, and baggy camo was less Hurt Locker than Harry Potter Goes to War. We must have just missed each other, which is why this one calls out for me to read. I was part of the Boston NROTC Consortium from 2005-2009.
Eyes Right by Tracy Crow
Just out of high school in 1977, her personal life already a mess, Tracy Crow thought the Marines might straighten her out. And sure enough, in the Corps she became a respected public affairs officer and military journalist—one day covering tank maneuvers or beach assaults, the next interviewing the secretary of the navy. But success didn’t come without a price. When Crow pledged herself to God, Corps, and Country, women Marines were still a rarity, and gender inequality and harassment were rampant. Determined to prove she belonged, Crow always put her career first. I’m intrigued by this one, mostly because I know next to nothing about women in the Marine Corps prior to 2000.
Hesitation Kills by Jane Blair
This riveting memoir is the first book written by a female Marine about the war in Iraq and one of the only books written by a woman who has experienced combat firsthand. Deploying to Iraq in 2003, Jane Blair’s aerial reconnaissance unit was assigned to travel ahead of and alongside combat units throughout the initial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Throughout her deployment, Jane kept a journal of her and her fellow lieutenants’ combat experiences, which she draws on to convey the immediacy of life in the military, not just for a woman but for all Marines. I’m intrigued by this one, although I have a feeling it’s gonna be a little less introspective than the others might be on the list. Also…I’ve noticed that all of these memoirs are about the officer experience.
Fight Like a Girl by Kate Germano
The Marine Corps continues to be the only service where men and women train separately in boot camp or basic training. This segregation negatively affects interaction with male marines later on, and, lower expectations of female recruits are actively maintained and encouraged. This is the story of Germano’s struggle to achieve equality of performance and opportunity for female Marines against an entrenched male-dominated status quo. It is also a universal tale of the effects of systemic gender bias. This has been on my TBR for a hot minute and I need to read it.
The First, The Few, The Forgotten by Jean Ebbert
Original in its focus, this groundbreaking book tells the story of the women who served in the military during World War I. Effectively shattering the misconception that women’s military role in the war was limited to nursing, the authors recount that from 1917 to 1920, some 12,000 enlisted women served in the U.S. Naval Reserve and 305 in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Carefully researched and engagingly written, the book explores a surprising variety of military duties carried out by women, including a number of non-clerical, highly specialized billets. I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while, I just need to actually find a copy and do it.
The White Donkey by Maxmilian Uriarte
The surreal journey of a United States Marine to and from Iraq. Written and Illustrated by Terminal Lance creator, infantry Marine and Iraq veteran Maximilian Uriarte. Oh hey, the one book on this list written by a dude! I’ve been following Max’s career since just about the beginning of Terminal Lance in 2010, and he is probably one of the most insightful and eviscerating people ever. This book has been on my TBR for FOREVER, and I just need to read it but I am not. ready.
A Marine Awakening by Jax Meyer
In 1998, introverted Cameron Warren is focused on being a model Marine and surviving the social isolation of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Navigating the policy and finding allies is harder than she expected, but she’s determined to complete her enlistment period and return to college. Meanwhile, gregarious military kid Sharon Rodriguez knows connections are critical to navigate the unspoken rules of the Marine Corps. She’s confident in her ability to enjoy the casual flings she’s accustomed to, while pursuing the 20 year career she desires. An #ownvoices story, and one that I’ve been meaning to read for a while. DADT was repealed while I was in, although I knew one or two midshipmen who were kicked out because of it.
Don’t Call Me Hero by Eliza Lentzski
It’s been over a year since Cassidy Miller retired from the United States Marine Corps, but try telling that to her nightmares. She knew that coming back after eight years in a war zone wouldn’t be easy, but she’d underestimated the real difficulties of transitioning back to civilian life. War is hell, but the aftermath is endless. Looking for a fresh start, she’s left her friends and career in Minneapolis to be a police officer in northern Minnesota. It’s in the tiny town of Embarrass where she learns more about Julia Desjardin. The city prosecutor is cool, professional, and untouchable. But she and Cassidy have history, and Cassidy isn’t going to let her easily forget that. I am ALSO intrigued by this one, too! I haven’t read a lot of lesbian romance, but I definitely want to. And I believe this one is also #ownvoices as well.
If you’re interested to learn more, here is a list compiled by the Women’s Marine Association in 2014. The majority of books listed are published by the History and Museums Division, USMC HQ (honestly, this would have been a dream assignment for me).
Have you read any of these?