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Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line

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Cheryl Strayed's Wild meets Anthony Swofford's Jarhead in this powerful literary memoir of a young Army recruit driven to prove herself in a man's world. Raised by powerful women in a restrictive, sheltered Christian community in New England, Ryan Dostie never imagined herself on the front lines of a war halfway around the world. But then a conversation with an Army recruit Cheryl Strayed's Wild meets Anthony Swofford's Jarhead in this powerful literary memoir of a young Army recruit driven to prove herself in a man's world. Raised by powerful women in a restrictive, sheltered Christian community in New England, Ryan Dostie never imagined herself on the front lines of a war halfway around the world. But then a conversation with an Army recruiter in her high-school cafeteria changes the course of her life. Hired as a linguist, she quickly has to find a space for herself in the testosterone-filled world of the Army barracks, and has been holding her own until the unthinkable happens: she is raped by a fellow soldier. Struggling with PTSD and commanders who don't trust her story, Dostie finds herself fighting through the isolation of trauma amid the challenges of an unexpected war. What follows is a riveting story of one woman's extraordinary journey to prove her worth, physically and mentally, in a world where the odds are stacked against her.


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Cheryl Strayed's Wild meets Anthony Swofford's Jarhead in this powerful literary memoir of a young Army recruit driven to prove herself in a man's world. Raised by powerful women in a restrictive, sheltered Christian community in New England, Ryan Dostie never imagined herself on the front lines of a war halfway around the world. But then a conversation with an Army recruit Cheryl Strayed's Wild meets Anthony Swofford's Jarhead in this powerful literary memoir of a young Army recruit driven to prove herself in a man's world. Raised by powerful women in a restrictive, sheltered Christian community in New England, Ryan Dostie never imagined herself on the front lines of a war halfway around the world. But then a conversation with an Army recruiter in her high-school cafeteria changes the course of her life. Hired as a linguist, she quickly has to find a space for herself in the testosterone-filled world of the Army barracks, and has been holding her own until the unthinkable happens: she is raped by a fellow soldier. Struggling with PTSD and commanders who don't trust her story, Dostie finds herself fighting through the isolation of trauma amid the challenges of an unexpected war. What follows is a riveting story of one woman's extraordinary journey to prove her worth, physically and mentally, in a world where the odds are stacked against her.

30 review for Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line

  1. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    You don't want to miss it...this is the memoir that will make a huge impact for it gives voice to female veterans and servicewomen.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kelley

    (As a retired Army Senior Noncommisioned Officer and OIF Veteran, I celebrate and honor the warrior who is Ryan. And yes... PTSD is a m----er f----er!) In her book, "Formation: A Woman’s Memoir of Stepping Out of Line," author Ryan Leigh Dostie narrates her personal experiences as a soldier in combat–at work and at home–engaged in a battle to survive not only war, but the most personal betrayal imaginable, rape by another soldier. This autobiographical recounting of, and accounting for a female s (As a retired Army Senior Noncommisioned Officer and OIF Veteran, I celebrate and honor the warrior who is Ryan. And yes... PTSD is a m----er f----er!) In her book, "Formation: A Woman’s Memoir of Stepping Out of Line," author Ryan Leigh Dostie narrates her personal experiences as a soldier in combat–at work and at home–engaged in a battle to survive not only war, but the most personal betrayal imaginable, rape by another soldier. This autobiographical recounting of, and accounting for a female soldier’s time in the Army, is a warrior’s story of institutional assimilation, indoctrination, alienation, and transformation. Humans tell stories, and stories can comprise narratives about our lives, carrying themes over periods of time. Narratives help us make sense of our world, often structuring meaning in ways that reflect a culture. We survive through the sharing of our stories as they not only serve to communicate culture, but also enable us to speak truth to power. Some narratives can withstand the test of time; they are almost unassailable as accepted truths (i.e., women do not belong in combat, she was drunk, she wanted it, she didn't say no, women are treated equitably in the Army). For narratives that persist in certain contexts (the military) resistance is only possible through counter-stories, giving a voice to the silenced. As an institution, the military insists upon uniformity, cohesiveness, fidelity, and adherence to its rules of conduct. However, these institutional narratives often subsume the voices of women as a marginalized population. Likewise, those suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have frequently been silenced through military narratives not conducive to being a “trauma victim,” (suck it up, power through it, tough it out, be resilient). As survivors of the physical, psychological, and emotional wounds inflicted during combat, military sexual trauma (MST) survivors suffer double exposure. Dostie’s account is both tragic and epic. Analyzing her story through a critical feminist lens situates it as “an equal opportunity to participate, to criticize, to express personal aims and attitudes, and to perform these acts without regard to power or ideology” (Walter Fisher, 1985). Dostie’s autobiographical book works rhetorically as an oppositional narrative or counter-story to the dominant narratives of military culture, especially those located inside the frames of war, trauma, and what comes after. Though Dostie's writing may have been aimed toward catharsis, it is a also an adept critique of the hegemonic masculinity inherent in the Army. Women move about as if unrecognized, and are relegated to 'passing'. They endure violence and harassment in silence. For many who do choose to pursue justice–as Dostie does–the system utterly fails them. For women to be heard in relation to justice, authoring a personal story may be their only recourse, as it subverts canonical narratives while providing empowerment–in effect, it becomes a form of justice. Ryan Dostie’s masterful–gritty and gutsy–vignettes challenge military narratives of equality opportunity and fair treatment of women. For female veterans, until MST, or more pointedly, military rape is adequately addressed by more responsive military legal action, oppositional narratives may be her only means of achieving a semblance of justice and addressing unseen wounds. Being an audience for autobiographical accounts of women in service may give us a glimpse into lives that are pushing back in a daily struggle. As veterans, when we share stories and construct new meanings, we are at a site of resistance. When we write we are also at a site of healing. We share from the depths of our souls and write the breadth of our dreams, forging something meaningful from the ashes of our grief and pain. We are transformed from victims to survivors; pawns to warriors.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    I devoured this book in 2 days, living in Ryan's skin, not breathing very well when she couldn't. It's an amazing book, and makes you re-think what you think you know about those first tours in Iraq, PTSD, depression, the simple fact of being female, and how one claws back from trauma. I'm so glad that I saw Aimee Mann's recommendation on Instagram, because I might not have found it otherwise. What an amazing woman, and what an amazing piece of writing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra Paine

    Without giving it away, this book is a journey. A journey some may recognize as one like their own, while others may find it somewhat foreign yet still relatable. You don't have to be military to appreciate this tale. She does a great job breaking down the nuance that might otherwise go over the civilian head. And the heart of her story is not just about "an incident," but about a life. A life formed by many experiences: many people, many places, and many moments of fear, doubt, confidence, expe Without giving it away, this book is a journey. A journey some may recognize as one like their own, while others may find it somewhat foreign yet still relatable. You don't have to be military to appreciate this tale. She does a great job breaking down the nuance that might otherwise go over the civilian head. And the heart of her story is not just about "an incident," but about a life. A life formed by many experiences: many people, many places, and many moments of fear, doubt, confidence, expectation, rage, love, hate, and acceptance. Like all stories, hers is not yet finished, but like all stories, hers is worth reading. Worth knowing. Not all of us are brave enough to put them onto paper, to share them with strangers, open to judgement and criticism from people we don't know. Let her words inspire you, her told adventures enable you--to be a vehicle to help you to maybe share your own insecurity, vulnerability, and strength with the world. All stories are worth knowing. Including hers. And yours. And maybe mine...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dave Wolfe

    Full disclosure: I know the author. I don't think I would have read this book otherwise. Put that fact aside. I was not fully aware of what Ryan went though during her time in the military. In discussions with her over the years, I found out she was raped by a fellow soldier; that the army tried to downplay it; and that she has suffered from PTSD. However, all of this was more like a basic outline of her full story. Formation captivated me. That was partially due to my friendship with Ryan. But Full disclosure: I know the author. I don't think I would have read this book otherwise. Put that fact aside. I was not fully aware of what Ryan went though during her time in the military. In discussions with her over the years, I found out she was raped by a fellow soldier; that the army tried to downplay it; and that she has suffered from PTSD. However, all of this was more like a basic outline of her full story. Formation captivated me. That was partially due to my friendship with Ryan. But her story is so much deeper than I ever expected. It is not so much about her as it is how a rape incident is poorly handled by her military leadership. It more than an Iraq war veteran story. It is about how some people, particularly those who are relied upon to help, put the onus on the victim. It is not an easy read. The words are bold. Some may be offended and, as a result. miss key points. I admit that this book made me think. That's always a good sign. For example, for years I've heard debates about the role of women in the military. Can they handle the "toughness"? Can they be "one of the guys"? But what happens when they act similar to their male counterparts? I remember watch M.A.S.H. on TV. Set in during the Korean conflict, there was a somewhat schizophrenic relationship the men had with the women. In many cases, the men treated the women as sex symbols. In one episode, the men planted themselves outside of a makeshift shower that was booby traped to collapse while their female counterparts where showering. Of course, this provided great entertainment to the men despite the embarrassment to the ladies. Without giving away too much, there a somewhat parallel scene in Formation. But how much fun is it when its the scene is reciprocated, just like "one of the guys"? Formation is a very relevant book in today's world. It's value goes well beyond the military. While it is not the finest book I've ever read, it is an extremely memorable one.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    I finished this book last night. I did not enjoy it at all. I read as a hobby and for entertainment. It's hard for me to 'not like' someone's life or experiences but if you put it in book form and put it out there and sell it, I guess I have the right to not like it. I made myself finish it hoping the poor main character's life would get better and it did, finally after a long torturous journey, but our main character was so beat up and worn down she couldn't tell good from bad or be happy. So s I finished this book last night. I did not enjoy it at all. I read as a hobby and for entertainment. It's hard for me to 'not like' someone's life or experiences but if you put it in book form and put it out there and sell it, I guess I have the right to not like it. I made myself finish it hoping the poor main character's life would get better and it did, finally after a long torturous journey, but our main character was so beat up and worn down she couldn't tell good from bad or be happy. So sad this poor woman didn't seek help or have a person in her life to turn to. Finally she finds her husband who seems a source of strength but she never really declares herself happy nor do I feel she'll ever know what happiness is. Wish her parents had guided her better early on to believe she could do better than join the Army. I know I'll make no friends with the following statement, but women don't belong in the military. I've seen it first hand being a military wife. Not because they can't do the job, they can and do it well, but because they are too good for it. It's a horrible place for women. They are treated terribly under the guise that it builds character. It does not. The environment is hostile, abusive and demeaning. I'm sorry that the main character is sad and wasted her younger years trying to overcome what happened to her. I'm sorry I forced myself to finish this book. I should give it one star, but guilt myself into giving it two.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Patricia O'Neill

    Stunning. Inspiring. Raw. Real. Read this book. I received an early copy of Formation and could not put it down. This is a story that needs to be shared. A sharp, honest account of one woman's experiences. She's not a victim or a martyr but a real woman living a real and raw life. The courage and self-reflection it takes to bring this story to the world is awesome. The writing is superb, and draws the reader in to feel and process experiences with the author. It's truth, painful and beautiful. I Stunning. Inspiring. Raw. Real. Read this book. I received an early copy of Formation and could not put it down. This is a story that needs to be shared. A sharp, honest account of one woman's experiences. She's not a victim or a martyr but a real woman living a real and raw life. The courage and self-reflection it takes to bring this story to the world is awesome. The writing is superb, and draws the reader in to feel and process experiences with the author. It's truth, painful and beautiful. I've got preorders in for family and friends. It's my first time sharing books like this - it is THAT good.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anne S

    This book caught my attention, grabbed my attention and kept it through the entire book! This is the story about a young woman who joined the Army to become a Japanese Linguist, only to be told she was going to be learning Persian Farsi. For those of you who don't know, the Army will promise you lots but "the needs of the Army come first" and where you end up, you end up! She gets to Ft Sill, Oklahoma and ends up getting raped by a fellow soldier, only to be told by her higher command, it didn't h This book caught my attention, grabbed my attention and kept it through the entire book! This is the story about a young woman who joined the Army to become a Japanese Linguist, only to be told she was going to be learning Persian Farsi. For those of you who don't know, the Army will promise you lots but "the needs of the Army come first" and where you end up, you end up! She gets to Ft Sill, Oklahoma and ends up getting raped by a fellow soldier, only to be told by her higher command, it didn't happen. It was her fault. "You don't ruin to a guy's career do you?" You don't ask like someone who has been raped! What the F--? is that supposed to mean. She holds on and continues on to finish out her time in the Army by going over to Iraq right after 9/11/01. She goes and does her duty in spite of not being believed, being the butt of the jokes, and being a woman in a mostly male cadre. This book is amazing because she is able to tell us what she went through, how the Army hid her rape and tried to say it didn't happen and what that incident did to her, both while she was in the Army and once she was out. This book should be required reading of everyone in the military service and shows us why rapes should be taken outside the chain of command so that deviants can be held accountable for their crimes. One thing (in the middle of the book) that I appreciated is that the women were supposed to wear their overshirts when they went to take showers or pee because they might excite the men if they just wore their tshirts! The men, on the other hand, were able to walk around in the compound with just their tshirts. That is, until a woman who had rank over their ranking captain told the men they also had to wear their overshirts to go pee and use the showers if the women did. It didn't take very much time until they (all the soldiers both men and women) were able to walk around camp in their tshirts! Thank you Ryan for showing us your spirit and rising above it. You are truly an inspiration. Keep on writing!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kara Harte

    “A few hours before I am raped, two officers in a bar try to corner me and steal my panties.” And with that jarring first line, Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie begins, hitting the ground running. A lyrically written novel that embodies the Hemingway quote, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein,” Dostie lays bare the deepest depths of herself in this debut memoir. In boldly and candidly telling her truth, Dostie inspires. Formation dives right into the “A few hours before I am raped, two officers in a bar try to corner me and steal my panties.” And with that jarring first line, Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie begins, hitting the ground running. A lyrically written novel that embodies the Hemingway quote, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein,” Dostie lays bare the deepest depths of herself in this debut memoir. In boldly and candidly telling her truth, Dostie inspires. Formation dives right into the trauma that will change Ryan Dostie forever – the night she is betrayed in the worst way by a fellow soldier when he rapes her. The events that transpire after this heinous act of violence shines a blaring spotlight on the culture of toxic masculinity within our own military. And what happens when our women warriors refuse to ‘go gentle.’ Raised surrounded by a group of powerful women, Ryan Leigh Dostie was never a girl destined to be a shrinking violet. Taught to embrace her own worth and desires from a young age, unintimidated by barriers that could get in her way, Ryan grows from a wonderfully wild little girl into a brilliant, spunky, adventurous young woman. So it’s no surprise that promises of thrilling endeavors draws Dostie to the army as a linguist. The army turns out to be both wonderful and terrible. And never what she expects. Thrust into a male-dominated establishment unwelcoming to women, Dostie still manages to hold her own in the army with grit and sharp wits. But, after the vicious assault she suffers in her barracks room that night, when Ryan doesn’t adhere to the subliminal rule of ‘shut up and suck it up’ that’s been drilled into her since basic training, the commanders that are there to protect her utterly – and willfully - fail her. Even with a crime scene, with physical evidence, they look this woman in the eyes and tell her they don’t believe her. They cherry pick her statements, selecting snippets that suit their fabricated retelling of the crime. They bully, sneer, blame, and try to humiliate her for speaking up. They protect a rapist. These leaders chosen to be thus because of their valor and great endevours, force a victim to bare the shame of an assailant, shame that never belongs to her. While her attacker walks around albatross-less, she is ostracized like a leper, even though she’s not the one clothed in the boils. It is a second violation. Even when recounting the turbulence, Dostie always seems to find moments of light within the dark to focus on. Instances of kindness and compassion from friends, from family - even a few strangers - are made evermore poignant for their rarity. And as she wages this war for justice, Dostie soon gets sent off to fight in another war, all the way in Iraq. Her battle scars take on the form of PTSD. What follows is Dostie dealing with the aftermath of trauma and war. Can you ever really heal from something from which there is no closure, no justice? Ryan answers this question by showing us. In present-tense, she immerses us in another time. You feel every nuance of emotion as your own. All the rage, disbelief, heartbreak, triumph, resilience - it seeps into your amygdala. Formation is not just sitting down and reading a book. It is leaping into another dimension to stand juxtaposed with Dostie in her shoes. Formation is a story for everyone. Though we all may have different backgrounds and journeys, the human experience is universal. Formation, at its core, is a starkly human journey. Dostie’s writing vividly captures the marrow of what it is to be human. The one truth we all know is that life is both gutting and glorious. We all have faced adversity, we have all been vulnerable to someone we trust, we have felt the burbling of happiness in our bellies, and we have all fought for something that mattered. It is by being utterly real in her humanity that Dostie connects powerfully with readers from all walks of life. The message in Formation is a timely and vital one in the #metoo era. The message is this: you are not alone, and you are never to blame. The way rape victims are treated is not acceptable. There is nothing in this world that justifies sexual assault. And the tradition of victim blaming needs to end. Sexual assault survivors deserve justice, for their voices to be heard. Not omitted. Consequences are for perpetrators, not victims. And the military cannot hide the way sexual assault has been grossly mishandled within its walls forever. It has to stop. We need to be the ones to fight for those changes. To fight for those who have been silenced. I have high hopes that Formation will shake up this world, and help those who have lost their voices find them. Formation is a vindicated fist raised in the air. A rally for change. A self-reclamation, a narrative repossessed. It is a woman whom, even when she feels shattered to bits like Humpty Dumpty, has a lionhearted spirit that burns undimmed, as incandescent as it did when she was a child. A spirit that their barriers never did stop. It is a woman who has been heard. A woman who is believed. Formation is a book whose echoes will linger with you long after you’ve closed the pages. 5/5 stars, and HIGHLY recommended. Formation lives up to all the hype, and is well-deserving of its spots at the top of summer reading lists. I look forward to more work from Ryan Leigh Dostie in the future, and foresee a bright career ahead. Now, book and author, go soar and make waves!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kate Arismendez

    Being a woman stepping into a man’s world is one thing. Being victimized, ignored, lied to by their own leaders is another. In the Army, the chain of command is supposed to mold the young soldiers, teach them to be obedient, teach them to give and receive respect, and teach them to care for one another. They are the surrogate mother and father to the young soldiers after they enlist. Ryan Dostie’s chain of command failed her when she needed them most. When Ryan Dostie was raped by a fellow soldi Being a woman stepping into a man’s world is one thing. Being victimized, ignored, lied to by their own leaders is another. In the Army, the chain of command is supposed to mold the young soldiers, teach them to be obedient, teach them to give and receive respect, and teach them to care for one another. They are the surrogate mother and father to the young soldiers after they enlist. Ryan Dostie’s chain of command failed her when she needed them most. When Ryan Dostie was raped by a fellow soldier and her command did not take her seriously. She didn’t receive support. She was not believed. She was ignored, lied to and told to forget about it. Thank you, Ryan Dostie, for telling your story. You are an inspiration to every woman.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Donna Bijas

    3.5 stars. Honestly have mixed feelings about this book. The writing is excellent, very detailed and precise. It’s also really honest and soul-searching. She is an amazing woman, but a rape while in the armed forces, not believed, coupled with PTSD after Iraq and depression made this mind-blowing and I found myself unsympathetic at times which bothered me, particularly after reading the acknowledgement section. It’s certainly worth reading, but it’s not easy and sometimes not enjoyable. I hope s 3.5 stars. Honestly have mixed feelings about this book. The writing is excellent, very detailed and precise. It’s also really honest and soul-searching. She is an amazing woman, but a rape while in the armed forces, not believed, coupled with PTSD after Iraq and depression made this mind-blowing and I found myself unsympathetic at times which bothered me, particularly after reading the acknowledgement section. It’s certainly worth reading, but it’s not easy and sometimes not enjoyable. I hope she’s happy now though.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Reynolds

    Dostie's memoir is well written with an important message. Actually, many important messages. It's a book about rape. It's a book about war. It's a book about PTSD. If you have been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted, this book is important because it lets you know you're not alone. If you have been deployed in the Army and felt the after effects of deployment, you will know you're not alone. If you have felt a struggle with mental illness, you will know you're not alone. And if you haven't e Dostie's memoir is well written with an important message. Actually, many important messages. It's a book about rape. It's a book about war. It's a book about PTSD. If you have been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted, this book is important because it lets you know you're not alone. If you have been deployed in the Army and felt the after effects of deployment, you will know you're not alone. If you have felt a struggle with mental illness, you will know you're not alone. And if you haven't experienced any of those things, this book gives you a window into what it's like to live through them. These are issues that are too important to be ignored. Dostie doesn't sugar-coat anything, because these aren't issues that should be glossed over. The book might be uncomfortable to read at points. That's fine, because life is uncomfortable sometimes too. This isn't a trashy romance with a predictable happy ending, so if that's what you want look elsewhere. This is a book of catharsis after trauma. Dostie is an amazing writer that takes you on the journey through the tough times right along with her. For better or worse, you will feel every inch of it as you read this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amy Rene

    Facing my truth I spent 10 years on active duty before the Army broke me physically and mentally. After getting out 3 months ago, I’ve been processing so many feeling about my own assaults on active duty while carrying the stories of hundreds of military sexual assault survivors I worked with over the years. Everyone in the military should read this book. Everyone who loves someone with PTSD should read this book. Thank you, Ryan, for opening eyes.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This is a phenomenal memoir of a woman’s experience in the army. It is smart and complicated and well written. From both a literary and personal perspective it’s utterly compelling.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Harold Walters

    This book should be left behind when soldiers move from place to place so over time hundreds (thousands?) of soldiers get to read it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Raw and devastating. Unlike any book I've ever read. I just can't stop thinking about it

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Rogozinski

    I really couldn't put this book down. It contains so many emotions and a clear-eyed honesty that is surprisingly relatable despite the uniqueness of Ryan's experience, and makes you feel like you know the author. I appreciated that it didn't ring of bitterness or anger for wrongs suffered, but had the maturity of perspective. I expected it to be a feminist rant, but instead it probed good questions.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    This was an incredible 5+ star read - a book I would recommend to every American. Dostie presents an absolutely infuriating and eye-opening story about her years as a woman in the US Army. She has a fascinating life in general - she grew up in a fundamentalist Christian society (basically a cult) in Massachusetts; she taught herself Japanese as a teenager; joined the military to become a linguist immediately after graduating high school; and learned Persian-Farsi at the military’s Defense Langua This was an incredible 5+ star read - a book I would recommend to every American. Dostie presents an absolutely infuriating and eye-opening story about her years as a woman in the US Army. She has a fascinating life in general - she grew up in a fundamentalist Christian society (basically a cult) in Massachusetts; she taught herself Japanese as a teenager; joined the military to become a linguist immediately after graduating high school; and learned Persian-Farsi at the military’s Defense Language Institute. She joined the army at a time of peace with no war on the horizon, and 9/11 struck while she was studying at DLI. Instead of being sent to the basic training camp where most linguists and army “paper pushers” are sent (Ft. Jackson or “Relaxin’ Jackson” as they call it), she was sent to Ft. Polk, a notoriously tough camp. While at Ft. Polk, she was raped by a fellow soldier. It is truly disgusting, maddening, and embarrassing to read about her experience afterwards. She did everything "by the book" - reported it almost immediately after, submitted herself to humiliating examinations, photos, test, and interrogations. But the army didn’t think she “acted like a rape victim.” She was gaslit and doubted and laughed at by every one of her superiors, asked if she “really wanted to ruin [her rapist’s] life” by going through with the accusation, given dirty and questioning looks by her fellow soldiers, labeled as “that girl who cried rape,” and subjected to her trauma becoming a joke in company-wide debriefs. Her accusation was found not to be credible and she had to serve in the same company as her rapist, who walked away scot-free. FORMATION is more than just the story of her rape, although that is a very important part of the book. It is also a story of being one of few woman in the military, particularly in the early 2000s when Iraq and Afghanistan were first invaded. It’s about how Dostie had to be cool with casual sexism, rape jokes, and homophobia. It’s also about what it’s like to be at war, the boredom, the heat, the injuries, the death. Dostie was military intelligence personnel, so she wasn’t on the front lines, but war is war. It’s about her PTSD, unexpected and intense. Dostie’s writing is beautiful, raw, and real. She’s clearly an excellent writer and I hope she’ll write more in the future. She makes you feel as though you are right there with her. I loved listening to the audiobook, which is narrated by Dostie, and you get to hear her no-nonsense thick Boston accent (she says her own last name “Dawstie”) tell you her experiences straight from the source. I know there are more women in the military now, and I can only hope that survivors of sexual assault within the army are believed and justice is given.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    I was fortunate to win an ARC of FORMATION- A WOMAN'S MEMOIR OF STEPPING OUT OF LINE, otherwise I might have missed out because there are few copies in my library systems, and I don't recall a big publicity push in the reviews that I read. I hope that changes because RYAN LEIGH DOSTIE'S story deserves to be told and she should be appreciated and recognized for what she gave up in order to serve this country as an Army soldier in the first Iraq invasion. I've never read anything like this. It is I was fortunate to win an ARC of FORMATION- A WOMAN'S MEMOIR OF STEPPING OUT OF LINE, otherwise I might have missed out because there are few copies in my library systems, and I don't recall a big publicity push in the reviews that I read. I hope that changes because RYAN LEIGH DOSTIE'S story deserves to be told and she should be appreciated and recognized for what she gave up in order to serve this country as an Army soldier in the first Iraq invasion. I've never read anything like this. It is unique. I now think that military women have less chance of equality and fair treatment than civilian women, because their commanding officers tend to think they don't deserve better, and they are forced to endure rather than besmirch the military by looking for justice for themselves. I haven't read about women in combat in modern wars, other than that there are now women in combat zones. But what exactly do they experience, and how do they live in those circumstances? Dostie initially enlisted because a recruiter convinced her that her language skills would make her valuable as a Linguist in Military Intelligence, and she would get the opportunity to get a college degree. What she wasn't promised was respect, fair treatment, protection from rape and PTSD. Basic training means sharing the same mental and physical hardships as the men. She accepted that. But what gives some military men the audacity to reach into their sadistic nature and inflict unnecessary hardships on women soldiers? Her training was interrupted by 9/11 and off she went to Iraq. Her time there is clearly portrayed so that the reader sees more than news reports chose to convey. It is hard to picture living in the extreme desert heat, wearing fifty pounds of combat gear, without fresh water, electricity, or personal comforts and facilities. Still, she speaks fondly of the locals and personal contacts, such as when mothers brought their young daughters to see for themselves a real-life woman soldier. After serving her tour of duty, one would think it would mean a return to home, career, and a good life. But like so many combat veterans, there is residual damage in the mind if not the body. Dostie does not sugar coat her story but lays open her worst mistakes. At times it is raw and harsh. It is a remarkable reading experience, and I highly recommend the book. Women will understand and appreciate, but I hope men will read it and learn.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matt Fitz

    I've spent most of my legal career in the military's criminal justice realm. Since around 2003, the military has been addressing it's problem with sexual assault in the ranks (slowly...and with mixed reviews and even more mixed results). Books like this that make us take a hard look are important to improving the process. Ms. Dotsie writes an incredible and unembellished account of a sexual assault that is not unlike many similar sexual assaults in the military. The difference is, Ms. Dotsie can I've spent most of my legal career in the military's criminal justice realm. Since around 2003, the military has been addressing it's problem with sexual assault in the ranks (slowly...and with mixed reviews and even more mixed results). Books like this that make us take a hard look are important to improving the process. Ms. Dotsie writes an incredible and unembellished account of a sexual assault that is not unlike many similar sexual assaults in the military. The difference is, Ms. Dotsie can write. And write well. She will make you uncomfortable because she isn't hear to sugar coat it, nor should she. She doesn't even sugar-coat her own weaknesses and sometimes irrational acts and thought processes. Ultimately, this is a story of how one person fought through that event and other military hardships to find herself. That very personal story is important. ** Not spoilers below, but thoughts directed towards other military justice practitioners.** Caveats. While I wanted a good introspective look at what we do or do not get write in sexual assault cases in the military, it should be noted that this sexual assault came about in the early 2000s (post-9/11 - pre Opn Iraqi Freedom). I believe her depiction of events and how people handled her was reflected of a culture that the military has sought to rectify, and in many ways, has. It's a good look at how far we have come but I don't say that for a pat on the back. We have a long way to go to improve culture, safety, and reputation. Second caveat: There is little discussion regarding the investigation for lawyers and law enforcement to do a "forensic" analysis to look for improvement. I'd still encourage reading it, because too little attention is paid to post sexual-assault PTSD and the challenges of "staying in the formation." Especially during deployments, etc.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Keana Aguila Labra

    Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie is a haunting, raw account of Dostie's rape during her time in the military. Dostie does not mince words nor does she hesitate transitioning into the topic; she dives headfirst into her encounter with her rapist. The events tumble at breakneck speed afterward; some of which were difficult or even impossible to read; I found myself seething with frustration or rage at the apathy of others' actions. Dostie introduces cruel and kind characters: from Andres allowing he Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie is a haunting, raw account of Dostie's rape during her time in the military. Dostie does not mince words nor does she hesitate transitioning into the topic; she dives headfirst into her encounter with her rapist. The events tumble at breakneck speed afterward; some of which were difficult or even impossible to read; I found myself seething with frustration or rage at the apathy of others' actions. Dostie introduces cruel and kind characters: from Andres allowing her to sleep on the floor of his room contrasted sharply with the disgust from Captain Wells. Following the crime, Dostie describes her interactions not only with her superior officers, but with the attorneys and interrogations and being forced to engage with her rapist on duty. No backgrounds are wasted; they are introduced as it occurred, and nothing more is told. It is a personal preference, but I would have liked to learn more about the dramatis personae and more about Dostie's background outside of her being in the military and her frequently mentioned Christian upbringing. Her logical, concise narrative reflects her disciplined military background; yet, her prose is easily digestible and at times, beautiful and melancholic. I was deeply invested in her case; I ended up finishing the book in a single night. I would recommend this book for anyone who has endured the violence of sexual assault or to anyone who considers themselves an ally to victims. This is especially important following the surge of the "me too" movement and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's testimony against now Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh. Dostie's bravery in sharing her story proves that the actions of these perpetrators will not go unnoticed or unpunished.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Clare McCarthy

    Think of the best opening line of any novel you've ever read. Go ahead; I'll wait. What is it? Yeah, that's good, but this is better: "A few hours before I am raped, two officers in a bar try to corner me and steal my panties." Right? And this is a memoir, not a novel. Formation is Ryan Dostie's memoir of her time in the Army, which included serving in Iraq, studying to be a linguist, and navigating an institution expressly set up NOT to include women. And it's a story about rape and its conseque Think of the best opening line of any novel you've ever read. Go ahead; I'll wait. What is it? Yeah, that's good, but this is better: "A few hours before I am raped, two officers in a bar try to corner me and steal my panties." Right? And this is a memoir, not a novel. Formation is Ryan Dostie's memoir of her time in the Army, which included serving in Iraq, studying to be a linguist, and navigating an institution expressly set up NOT to include women. And it's a story about rape and its consequent lasting and deep trauma. Time and again Dostie is betrayed by peers and superiors alike. "Suck it up, buttercup," is the glib motto and the measure of her commitment to serve. Dostie chronicles the long-term effects of the event and its aftermath in a raw, brutally candid style. About a particularly phallocephalic officer, she writes, "Rage makes me both dumb and blind, a sort of numbness except it burns all the way through." The building trauma emerges in the field: "The inability to ever see the enemy, to find a single face, makes them a conglomerate - if any one of them shoots at me then they all have, and I'm not going to be their little bitch." This is not an easy read emotionally. It cuts to the core, then continues to uncover new strata beneath that. Do not go into it lightly. But do go into it. The profound corruption and hypocrisy need to be seen for what they are. The purpose of military training since the Greek hoplites has been to obliterate the individual and thus create the fighting unit. But the army fostered an environment that encouraged and then ignored her rape. It shut her out of unit cohesion because it feared the truth. So allow me to redirect Dostie's words against them, "Fuckers. They're no longer human to me. " Read this book and get angry.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie_blu

    I received this book for free, but be assured that my review below an honest one. The old saying "the more things change, the more they stay the same" is absolutely applicable to women in the military. Whether it's the 1970s or 2019, women must be ever vigilant as they serve in the armed forces. I, too, was assaulted when I served, but luckily I managed to stop it before full rape. Dostie's account of her life, the trauma she experiences, and the complete disinterest in her welfare by her male co I received this book for free, but be assured that my review below an honest one. The old saying "the more things change, the more they stay the same" is absolutely applicable to women in the military. Whether it's the 1970s or 2019, women must be ever vigilant as they serve in the armed forces. I, too, was assaulted when I served, but luckily I managed to stop it before full rape. Dostie's account of her life, the trauma she experiences, and the complete disinterest in her welfare by her male compatriots and superiors is unflinchingly told. The total lack of compassion for her from the military leadership is not a unique event. It is all too common, even today. Dostie was doubly vulnerable to the ultra-macho climate of the military, because she had never experienced commonplace male-female interactions since she was raised in an almost isolated religious group. She didn't have any mechanisms to handle the rape and the unrelenting male disbelief and disinterest. My heart broke for her as she tried desperately to deal with it herself, only to end up with severe PTSD and a number of psychological problems. It took her years to start finding herself and fighting back to a livable life. To all who are considering reading this book, I can attest that it genuinely represents the problems women face in the military, especially in wartime. Should women avoid joining the military? No, but they must enter with their eyes wide open and have a strong sense of self so that they can fight for themselves when necessary.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mindy

    I wanted to be able to give this memoir a higher rating. This woman went through SO much mental, physical and emotional trauma and I know she can't be the only one to have the experiences she had while in the military- but I just could not get into this book the way I wanted to. Perhaps it may be because I don't know the same kind of trauma in the way she does or because I live a very different life than a militant one- I'm just not sure. However, I find Dostie to be incredibly brave for sharing I wanted to be able to give this memoir a higher rating. This woman went through SO much mental, physical and emotional trauma and I know she can't be the only one to have the experiences she had while in the military- but I just could not get into this book the way I wanted to. Perhaps it may be because I don't know the same kind of trauma in the way she does or because I live a very different life than a militant one- I'm just not sure. However, I find Dostie to be incredibly brave for sharing her story- the rape and her remaining anxious tics that, actually, I DO resonate with. That ever buggering, "WHAT IF" is something that used to RAID my mind DAILY years ago when I went through anxiety for my own (however miniscule in comparison) reasons. It still rears its ugly head every now and then, but I'm relieved to not feel it any longer in the intensity with which Dostie describes. Dostie delivers a poignant contribution to the #MeToo movement and although heartbreaking for her to have lived through that experience, I think this book will serve others who ache to find that understanding voice, incredibly well. The three stars are simply because I was unable to fully connect.

  25. 5 out of 5

    EzekielHall

    Ryan Dostie's story is one many women in the military have experienced, and her excellent writing skills and courage to face and name her traumas will, I hope, make more people confront such issues as military sexual trauma, toxic masculinity, imperialism, the utter inhumanity of war, and the failure of the US government to care for its "heroes". Other things her memoir mentions, aside from its main themes, include her unique childhood (from a matriarchal religious cult to studying abroad in a Ja Ryan Dostie's story is one many women in the military have experienced, and her excellent writing skills and courage to face and name her traumas will, I hope, make more people confront such issues as military sexual trauma, toxic masculinity, imperialism, the utter inhumanity of war, and the failure of the US government to care for its "heroes". Other things her memoir mentions, aside from its main themes, include her unique childhood (from a matriarchal religious cult to studying abroad in a Japanese highschool), laser tag using Army equipment, and many language and cultural explorations from her anthropologist-inclined perspective and globe-trotting experience. This is a memoir of a very rich life that was chewed up by a vicious machine, a woman who came out of that maw determined to thrive with all the power and insight that they couldn't take from her. She absolutely deserves the spotlight her work is getting.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Willms

    Ryan was a risk-taker. She enjoyed adventure and wanted to travel. When the army talked to her about enlisting, she decided it sounded like fun. She'd never really had the easy camaraderie other people seemed to experience throughout school, so she looked forward to truly belonging. The reality was not exactly what she'd imagined. She expected the Army to keep its promise to her - she was going in the Army to study Japanese. She didn't think America would be going to war. Then came 9/11. Of cour Ryan was a risk-taker. She enjoyed adventure and wanted to travel. When the army talked to her about enlisting, she decided it sounded like fun. She'd never really had the easy camaraderie other people seemed to experience throughout school, so she looked forward to truly belonging. The reality was not exactly what she'd imagined. She expected the Army to keep its promise to her - she was going in the Army to study Japanese. She didn't think America would be going to war. Then came 9/11. Of course, there was also the rape and all that the Army didn't do on her behalf. Formation should be read by all women considering joining any branch of the military. It is honest, brutal, and searing. It tells of the truths of war, the devastations of PTSD, as well as the strong sense of fellowship of those in service. The author, though she had some seriously negative experiences, didn't focus only on the bad. She also shared all that she truly loved about her service. Formation was a educational, enlightening, and uplifting book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shay

    Memoirs have never been at the top of my list as must reads but I was walking the aisles at my local bookstore and I happened to read the jacket of this particular one and it had me. I bought it and started reading it in my car before I even got home. It's follows, Ryan Dostie, as she grows up in a very sheltered religious environment and when she's given the "opportunity" to become a linguist in the army, she enlists, thinking this is her chance to be something more. She takes you on a captivati Memoirs have never been at the top of my list as must reads but I was walking the aisles at my local bookstore and I happened to read the jacket of this particular one and it had me. I bought it and started reading it in my car before I even got home. It's follows, Ryan Dostie, as she grows up in a very sheltered religious environment and when she's given the "opportunity" to become a linguist in the army, she enlists, thinking this is her chance to be something more. She takes you on a captivating journey of her time in the army, her assault in the army, her struggle to defend her truth in and from the army, her love of the army and how she fought through ptsd after the army, so she could survive her life. This inner strength in this women is felt in every word she writes. Totally recommend. One of the best books I've read in some time.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael Sauve

    Wow, what a memoir! Ryan you have a very unique writing style and I thoroughly enjoyed every chapter, every page, every paragraph ..... down to every single word choice. I found your story very moving and will never forget it. Who would have thought a person wanting to obtain higher education as a linguist would end up in Iraq, fighting a war to save that country from itself. Sadly, the ironic twist is that your personal misfortune of experiencing “It” took place on US soil, not in some faraway Wow, what a memoir! Ryan you have a very unique writing style and I thoroughly enjoyed every chapter, every page, every paragraph ..... down to every single word choice. I found your story very moving and will never forget it. Who would have thought a person wanting to obtain higher education as a linguist would end up in Iraq, fighting a war to save that country from itself. Sadly, the ironic twist is that your personal misfortune of experiencing “It” took place on US soil, not in some faraway land where you were dealing with the atrocities of war under very difficult circumstances. You have lived quite the life so far, Ryan. I look forward to reading future books that have RLD as the author. Thanks again for telling your very personal story in such a candid and gut wrenching manner. Just call me a Super Fan!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Dodds

    Most readers will not have experienced the same things that Ryan Leigh Dostie has experienced and writes about in her memoir--being a woman in the military, a survivor of sexual assault, and living with PTSD. However, there is a lot in Formation that will resonate with readers, even those who typically do not read military literature. Dostie's beautiful prose keeps you right alongside her throughout the entire journey, and the chapters that take place in Iraq show a more historically-rich view o Most readers will not have experienced the same things that Ryan Leigh Dostie has experienced and writes about in her memoir--being a woman in the military, a survivor of sexual assault, and living with PTSD. However, there is a lot in Formation that will resonate with readers, even those who typically do not read military literature. Dostie's beautiful prose keeps you right alongside her throughout the entire journey, and the chapters that take place in Iraq show a more historically-rich view of the country than the typical war-torn depictions of the Middle East. Above all else, Formation is a timely and important book in the wake of the #metoo movement, and Dostie is a necessary voice for women who have served in the United States military. I highly recommend this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    This was a phenomenal book from start to finish. I received a pre-release copy (either from Goodreads or another site--I do not recall.) As often happens with free books, although I hate to admit it, is they get lost on a shelf in my library, unread. I figured the same would occur with this rather lengthy memoir, but after cracking open the first page, I could Not put it down, reading it at every spare moment. "Formation" is a memoir of a woman's army experience. Ryan Dostie's (author) writing i This was a phenomenal book from start to finish. I received a pre-release copy (either from Goodreads or another site--I do not recall.) As often happens with free books, although I hate to admit it, is they get lost on a shelf in my library, unread. I figured the same would occur with this rather lengthy memoir, but after cracking open the first page, I could Not put it down, reading it at every spare moment. "Formation" is a memoir of a woman's army experience. Ryan Dostie's (author) writing is gripping, descriptive, and real. The book Formation brings the reader into the author's world and experience, and helps clarify the patriarchal military perception that a woman must face, and then effectively shows how a person deals with trauma beyond this.

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