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Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army

Kayla Williams, Author, Michael E. Staub, With
Kayla Williams, Author, Michael E. Staub, With with Michael E. Staub. Norton $24.95 (290p) ISBN 978-0-393-06098-0
Reviewed on: 05/23/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
Paperback - 292 pages - 978-0-393-32922-3
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-0-297-84874-5
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-0-297-85131-8
Paperback - 290 pages - 978-0-7538-2106-0
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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. Agent, Sydelle Kramer. 8-city author tour; 20-city radio satellite tour. (Sept.)

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