cover image Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq

Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq

Jess Goodell, with John Hearn. Casemate (Casemate, dist.), $26.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-61200-001-5

In this absorbing memoir, Iraq veteran Goodell recounts her service, the brutal, sexist culture of the Marine Corps, and her struggle to adapt to the world upon her return from Iraq. After enlisting, Goodell volunteered to serve with the Marines' first declared Mortuary Attachment in Iraq's Al Anbar province, in 2004. The Mortuary Attachment platoon was responsible for doing "what had to be done but that no one wanted to know about": they "processed" the bodies of U.S. and other soldiers killed in combat, so that they could be identified and returned to their families. She describes in gruesome detail what this involved, and how it affects the soldiers who care for their comrades in this way. She rubbed up against a Marine Corp culture that includes routine indignities (calling an unfit Marine a "fat nasty" or worse), outright misogyny ("Don't even...tell me that's a woman. Get...out of my formation!"), and sexist marching cadences. Coming home, unable to gain weight or sleep or relax and unprepared for post-service life among a population that had no idea of who she was or what she had gone through, Goodell began to come apart. Her memoir is a courageous settling of accounts, and a very good read. (May)