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A raw, unflinching memoir by a former US Marine Captain chronicling her journey from dutiful daughter of immigrants to radical activist effecting historic policy reform. 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 th A raw, unflinching memoir by a former US Marine Captain chronicling her journey from dutiful daughter of immigrants to radical activist effecting historic policy reform. 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. Pushing herself beyond her limits, she also wrestles with what drove her to pursue such punishment in the first place. Once her service concludes in 2004, Anuradha courageously vows to take to task the very leaders and traditions that cast such a dark cloud over her time in the Marines. Her efforts result in historic change, including the lifting of the ban on women from pursuing combat roles in the military. A tale of heroic resilience grappling with the timely question of what, exactly, America stands for, Unbecoming is about one woman who learned to believe in herself in spite of everything. It is the kind of story that will light a fire beneath you, and inspire the next generation of indomitable female heroes.


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A raw, unflinching memoir by a former US Marine Captain chronicling her journey from dutiful daughter of immigrants to radical activist effecting historic policy reform. 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 th A raw, unflinching memoir by a former US Marine Captain chronicling her journey from dutiful daughter of immigrants to radical activist effecting historic policy reform. 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. Pushing herself beyond her limits, she also wrestles with what drove her to pursue such punishment in the first place. Once her service concludes in 2004, Anuradha courageously vows to take to task the very leaders and traditions that cast such a dark cloud over her time in the Marines. Her efforts result in historic change, including the lifting of the ban on women from pursuing combat roles in the military. A tale of heroic resilience grappling with the timely question of what, exactly, America stands for, Unbecoming is about one woman who learned to believe in herself in spite of everything. It is the kind of story that will light a fire beneath you, and inspire the next generation of indomitable female heroes.

30 review for Unbecoming: A Memoir of Disobedience

  1. 4 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    Anuradha Bhagwati recounts her service as a woman of color in the United States Marine Corps, where she was one of the few female officers in a misogynistic society, and the years after—where she struggled to come back to life and support military survivors of sexual assault. It has taken me nearly three weeks to write this review, not because it was a bad book (it's not—see the five stars) but because so much of Bhagwati's experiences are those that I share, and so many of her insights are ones Anuradha Bhagwati recounts her service as a woman of color in the United States Marine Corps, where she was one of the few female officers in a misogynistic society, and the years after—where she struggled to come back to life and support military survivors of sexual assault. It has taken me nearly three weeks to write this review, not because it was a bad book (it's not—see the five stars) but because so much of Bhagwati's experiences are those that I share, and so many of her insights are ones that I have come to myself, particularly after getting out of the Marine Corps. Bhagwati ended her service in 2004, just when I was beginning to take the first steps into my career towards becoming a Marine Corps Officer. We were in Boston/Cambridge at the same time, and I know and met (and naively idolized) quite a few of the people she mentions. It makes me wonder if we ever bumped paths. Anywho. This is a raw, unflinching story, where Bhagwati lays everything—and I mean everything—out, to the point where at times I was wondering who this was for? Atonement for past mistakes? A CYA in case someone came after her for...whatever? There were moments that I was like, no you fucking didn't, and other times that I was like, yup, been there, done that. Bhagwati was a communications officer, and was rough and tough and trained her Marines like they were going to go to war—and most did, after 9/11. She was one of the first women MCMAP instructors (before it was called MCMAP), Col Bristol was her personal demon, and the first woman commanding officer of a company at Camp Geiger's School of Infantry. However, where the story shined was in Bhagwati's insights into the hyper-masculine culture of the Marine Corps, and her callout towards the higher ups who have continually devalued and undermined women Marines and their achievements, and continually set them up as lesser than their male peers—and her recommendations on how to fix it (note: change the majority not the minority, as we have been saying for years, the problem isn't the women). She also calls out the culture of women in the Marine Corps, and how we have been systematically trained not to band together with our minority female peers, but to distance ourselves from those who show weakness so not to have the "taint" touch us. We are stronger together, and the pervasive mentality of "I am better than the rest" only strengthens and buys into the systematic sexism of the Marine Corps mentality. Much of Bhagwati's experiences as a veteran I can wholly relate to (minus actually going to the VA—nope nope nope, not doing that, not even as my body breaks down around me), from the feelings of inadequacy to feelings that I didn't actually serve because I never deployed (aaaaaaaaand the whole host of feelings that brings up as a woman veteran) to the depression and anxiety that plagues most of us, to the feeling that we're not good enough for the Marines but too good for any other service, to the feeling that no one understands. The isolation and despair are ones I connect to well, along with the realization that no one gives a shit after you're out. That fawning adoration of active servicemembers? Yeah, that's gone the second you get that DD214 (unless you're a dude). Anywho x 2. This book captures a lot of what I'm coming to realize is a universal experience for a lot of women Marine veterans, and names and describes much of the Marine Corps culture and how it relates to women (and men! because men are soooooo damaged by the Marine Corps' toxic masculinity and they never even realize how it seeps into their entire being). Bhagwati also talks about her experience as a brown person in the mostly-white officer corps, and how the intersectionality of woman and brownness interacted and informed much of her experience. I strongly believe that this book should be required reading on the Commandant's Reading List. I know that my review wasn't the most articulate, but this book captured so much of what I've come to believe as wrong within the Marine Corps (feelings that grew when I was in, but I was so vertically integrated into the system that I didn't want to realize it until later and I grew words to describe my feelings of discontent and unease) and a history of how the Marine Corps has wronged and continues to wrong women by setting them apart instead of integrating them fully as equal partners. The Marine Corps is a strong, fighting organization. This is true. But it has deep, unspoken flaws that the leadership fails to look at. It's mindset towards women is one of them (and also survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, who may or may not happen to be women). These can be changed, but the Marine Corps needs to lean into that change instead of throwing gimmes to mollify the minority while avoiding angering the systematically brainwashed majority.

  2. 5 out of 5

    da AL

    Written in the bravest way, in detail, and from the heart. Bhagwati describes what it's like to grow up in a strict Indian family, then endure the Marines as an idealistic bisexual woman. Despite the severe trials she faces, she remains optimistic that enough of us will take the time to read her book to understand and work for change. Written in the bravest way, in detail, and from the heart. Bhagwati describes what it's like to grow up in a strict Indian family, then endure the Marines as an idealistic bisexual woman. Despite the severe trials she faces, she remains optimistic that enough of us will take the time to read her book to understand and work for change.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Cheng

    I picked this up for a couple different reasons - first, because the author's story reflects my own experience as the child of (in her case, south) Asian immigrants who chooses to do what may be the most un-Asian thing imaginable in joining the Marine Corps. As a man, however, I did not have the author's experiences as a woman in this most hypermasculine branch of the US Military, but the road leading her to the military rings true for me. This book feels like two separate stories, in a way - one I picked this up for a couple different reasons - first, because the author's story reflects my own experience as the child of (in her case, south) Asian immigrants who chooses to do what may be the most un-Asian thing imaginable in joining the Marine Corps. As a man, however, I did not have the author's experiences as a woman in this most hypermasculine branch of the US Military, but the road leading her to the military rings true for me. This book feels like two separate stories, in a way - one of Ms. Bhagwati in the military sphere (both the Marines and SWAN), and one outside of and in recovery from it. Both parts of her story contain valuable lessons. The Marines, with apologies to those who served in the other military branches, really are a different world with a unique tradition and ethos. How much does that ethos contribute to the problems of misogyny and sexual violence that Ms Bhagwati highlights? How do you take the mindset and culture of the Marines - that which makes it successful - and remove the sexism that poisons it? If you want to solve a problem, you first need to define it and acknowledge it - this book is an important first step in that direction.

  4. 5 out of 5

    The Lazy Library

    What a read! Anuradha Bhagwati's years as a grassroots activist has made her an excellent communicator, but her years as a Marine have trained her to command her story with authenticity and authority. These two sides of her personality- vocal activist and trained killer- define her journey through her school years, suppressed by her helicopter Indian parents, to her life - changing decision of joining the Marines. There she's found an organization that teaches her everything she needs to know ab What a read! Anuradha Bhagwati's years as a grassroots activist has made her an excellent communicator, but her years as a Marine have trained her to command her story with authenticity and authority. These two sides of her personality- vocal activist and trained killer- define her journey through her school years, suppressed by her helicopter Indian parents, to her life - changing decision of joining the Marines. There she's found an organization that teaches her everything she needs to know about becoming a war weapon, but constantly underestimates her on the basis of sex. Bhagwati paints a horrendesly enlightening picture of the deeply entrenched culture of sexual harassment and assault in the US military, and the systematic oppression of female members of the military. As a queer woman of color, Bhagwati makes her voice and experience known, loud and clear. She fights and harnesses the trauma she's experienced as a result of her days as a Marine to better the circumstances for future women in uniform. An amazing debut novel, can't recommend this enough!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anuradha

    I got this as a birthday gift because, well, the author is my namesake.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Indira

    Incredibly compelling story.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sawyer

    Blew through this in 3 days — heartbreaking but riveting. Should be read alongside Kate Germano's "Fight Like a Girl." Should also be on one or more of the Commandant's reading lists, and should be required reading for the Armed Services Committees of both houses. Blew through this in 3 days — heartbreaking but riveting. Should be read alongside Kate Germano's "Fight Like a Girl." Should also be on one or more of the Commandant's reading lists, and should be required reading for the Armed Services Committees of both houses.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hoolia

    This is an extremely well-written, well-formulated memoir. Bhagwati is raw, honest, unflinching and unapologetic in her remembrance of her life first as a young, obedient Desi girl, then as a young officer in the strange, violent, sometimes insidious world of the Marine Corps. I have never read a more accurate depiction of the psychology of being a female officer in the Corps. Her arguments about sexual assault, sexual harassment, and misogyny in the military are simultaneously biting and though This is an extremely well-written, well-formulated memoir. Bhagwati is raw, honest, unflinching and unapologetic in her remembrance of her life first as a young, obedient Desi girl, then as a young officer in the strange, violent, sometimes insidious world of the Marine Corps. I have never read a more accurate depiction of the psychology of being a female officer in the Corps. Her arguments about sexual assault, sexual harassment, and misogyny in the military are simultaneously biting and thoughtful, and her unique viewpoint as a servicewoman gives her incredible insight into many of the challenges facing our oversight of the military today. For her writing alone this will be one of my favorite books of 2019, and I will be recommending this to every single woman I know in the military. However, there were a few things I just couldn’t get over. The first is her strange argument that fraternization is not a big deal and should be permitted, or at least overlooked, by higher ups. This is insane to me. There’s a lot to be said for how the structure of the military inherently lends itself to misogyny, but I don’t see how permitting fraternization would help at all; in fact it would make it exponentially worse. The relationship between officer and enlisted can never cross into anything romantic; that is a betrayal of the oath you took to be a leader, and a betrayal of the Marines you swore to protect. If you can’t control your own desires, you have no business being an officer. I am not condemning Bhagwati’s choices here—by all means, what she did is nowhere near as bad as the actions she describes others committing, and command cultures do change over time. But why on earth she kept coming back to her pro-fraternization argument I had no idea. Later in the book, she even condemns one of her closest partners for going out drinking with the staff of their company...less than 100 pages after she admitted to having inappropriate relationships with enlisted personnel. The lack of self-awareness drove me crazy. Secondly, Bhagwati admiringly describes working with LtCol Kate Germano, who has indeed been a vocal advocate of reform in the Marine Corps, especially in regards to how female Marines are trained. After spending hundreds of pages reaming notable supposed allies for their lack of sensitivity to sexual assault survivors, Bhagwati seemingly overlooks the fact that LtCol Germano was relieved of her command at 4th Recruit Training Battalion in part because she made victim-blaming comments during a training session focused on sexual assault prevention. And it was infuriating to me when I read that, like LtCol Germano, Bhagwati assumed that the first female infantry officer in the Marine Corps was not publicly paraded around after her graduation from IOC because her command was somehow embarrassed that a woman had passed their course, and that like LtCol Germano, Bhagwati wanted her identity revealed so she could receive credit. That is not okay. The first female graduate of IOC remained anonymous by her own choice and was lucky enough to have a command that supported her. She does not owe it to LtCol Germano, Capt Bhagwati, or to anyone else to be paraded around like a circus elephant. For the life of me, I will never understand this desire to make other women get up on a soapbox and make themselves free real estate for every single 2-pull-ups-max troll on Facebook. In addition, I’m not sure when Bhagwati finished writing this book, but some of her statements at the end are factually incorrect. Women are now required to do pull-ups as part of the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test, and the physical training expectations of females are indeed slowly moving towards male standards. Bhagwati’s points are all still valid, but that was just a little detail that bugged me. All that being said, this is a superb memoir, and the depiction of surviving as a female in a deeply patriarchal, misogynistic institution is without parallel. The slow realization of internalized misogyny is exceptionally well-rendered. I’ll be recommending this to basically everyone I know this summer.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sandy.l_f_

    A real eye-opener. Glad I read it. My daughter chose a career in the military.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karrie S

    Wow. This book was amazing. I don’t have much knowledge of the Military System. I hate War, but I have much respect for the people who choose to be in the Military. (I used to have nightmares that my Dad would be drafted in 1989 bc the US was almost war-less in the 80s and I know my Uncle was “drafted” into the Vietnam War). My Uncle was blown up in a tank with his BFF, was MIA in a German Hospital for 2 months, and came back with paranoid schizophrenia. When he drank he would call our house and Wow. This book was amazing. I don’t have much knowledge of the Military System. I hate War, but I have much respect for the people who choose to be in the Military. (I used to have nightmares that my Dad would be drafted in 1989 bc the US was almost war-less in the 80s and I know my Uncle was “drafted” into the Vietnam War). My Uncle was blown up in a tank with his BFF, was MIA in a German Hospital for 2 months, and came back with paranoid schizophrenia. When he drank he would call our house and yell over the answering machine that we killed his Mom. I was young and it was scary and sad. Then the 2nd Gen of anti-psychotic meds came out in the 90s and he has over 20 years sober. 💜 He is very proud of the service he gave. My Uncle just received help from CANADA this past year, when he needed new teeth. I was aware of how bad the medical side is (altho some people in Ann Arbor are happy with it), and I remember all the HARD work my Mom did trying to get my Uncle to stay any where for more than 24 hrs to get psychiatric help in the 80/90s. I hate the Gov for not taking care of them better. I think 99% of people feel this way. Marines training sounds like Hell. It sounds really close to what High School was like for me, but way more physical and intense. It made me realize that people aren’t good or bad. We are all both. We are ALL capable of killing. We are in major denial of how institutionalized behavior effects the world, especially the US. I really think major change is on the horizon. I am willing to work hard for women. I have SUCH a girl-crush on the Author. I am very grateful that she chose to share her story. I am going to look into Yoga for healing my trauma. I can not recommend this book enough. Thank you 🙏

  11. 5 out of 5

    Beverly Munson

    This book will further enrage women who have experienced sexual harassment and/or assault in the workplace (and in society in general) because it makes evident what little progress we've made (or are likely to make under the current Presidential Administration). And it will also inspire you as you see how Bhagwati has battled beyond her experiences and has used them in a purposeful way to try and address the backwards and unbelievable attitudes toward women in many walks of life American men sti This book will further enrage women who have experienced sexual harassment and/or assault in the workplace (and in society in general) because it makes evident what little progress we've made (or are likely to make under the current Presidential Administration). And it will also inspire you as you see how Bhagwati has battled beyond her experiences and has used them in a purposeful way to try and address the backwards and unbelievable attitudes toward women in many walks of life American men still hold dear to their hearts. Update 7/4/2019: My Book Discussion Group discussed this book last night. We are a group who read books about issues affecting American women hoping to become better educated about such issues. We had record attendance (21) including 4 women who are currently military officers; 7 health care worers who treat victims of sexual assault in the military (including the 4 military officers); 2 attorneys who work in the field of workplace harassment; and 1 Human Resources Executive. The scope of our discussion was amazing. We benefitted from the insights of professionals working in the field (who validated the accuracy of Bhagwati's account) as well as the reactions of civilians who do not work in the field. All present felt this book is one of the "most important" books they've read in recent years.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Another book toward my 2019 challenge to read 12 books written by persons of color. Honestly, I am not sure how I feel about this book. Much of it rings true based on my experiences working with women Veterans. Hard not to feel offended by the author's consistent claim that civilians were of limited benefit in helping her after her military service since they have not experienced the military. I have thought about this book a lot since I finished reading it and I am sure it will stay with me for Another book toward my 2019 challenge to read 12 books written by persons of color. Honestly, I am not sure how I feel about this book. Much of it rings true based on my experiences working with women Veterans. Hard not to feel offended by the author's consistent claim that civilians were of limited benefit in helping her after her military service since they have not experienced the military. I have thought about this book a lot since I finished reading it and I am sure it will stay with me for a long time. The bones of the story are compelling - the first generation daughter of two economics professors, the author rebels by joining the Marines where she experiences misogyny, discrimination, sexual harassment, and outright bullying from persons who believe she has no place in the Marines. Following her military experience, she suffers significantly from PTSD and the aftereffects of military sexual trauma and eventually becomes an activist on behalf of women service members. I had some difficulty in keeping characters straight and I felt that some of the book tilted more toward essay than memoir. Still, I am glad I read it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Trichelle De La Cueva

    I can’t give this a rating. It doesn’t feel right. It feels as if I’m rating someone’s life and given all that she has gone through it doesn’t feel fair. Her writing is superb and I hope she finds the peace and healing that she deserves.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Luke Johnson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. So let me just begin by saying that I'm a straight, white male. I'm not a veteran. I don't have PTSD. So let's just say I don't have a lot in common with Ms Bhagwati, yet, I chose to read this book anyway even though I'm not a fan of memoirs much at all. Now, because of what I've already stated there are some who think I don't get to have an opinion on this book, and I disagree there. But I can understand why some people might think which is why I'm not giving it a rating. I will however say thi So let me just begin by saying that I'm a straight, white male. I'm not a veteran. I don't have PTSD. So let's just say I don't have a lot in common with Ms Bhagwati, yet, I chose to read this book anyway even though I'm not a fan of memoirs much at all. Now, because of what I've already stated there are some who think I don't get to have an opinion on this book, and I disagree there. But I can understand why some people might think which is why I'm not giving it a rating. I will however say this book was not something I enjoy reading. Interest subject? Very much so and I applaud Ms Bhagwati in her efforts to make things better for servicemen and women but to me the book was a one sided argument with the author spending the second half of the book not doing much but slinging mud at other people. At times I thought it was hypocritical, and though I know race is ALWAYS a factor it seemed to me author is the one constantly making it the issue here. So let me back up. The first part of the book is more of an autobiography with the author talking about her early and teen years before joining the US Marine Corps. She does not have a happy childhood growing up Indian-American mainly thanks to her emotionally abusive father and overly controlling parents. During her teen years, her father calls her ugly and it scars her. That's a terrible thing for a parent to say to a child and I do genuinely feel sorry for her. A lot of time is spent building her parents up as bullying and controlling but then they largely get dropped for the story line and only get picked back up at the very end. From there the author becomes a Marine. Due to her college degree she is able to become an officer and do many things lower ranking servicemen and women are not able to do. She has specialized training in how to be a leader, specialized hand to hand combat training, she's stationed overseas in Thailand where after a bit her nights are spent drinking and being a witness to the infidelity of her fellow officers many of which are married men with a taste for young Thai prostitutes according to the author. I believe it is in Thailand that she joins a group of male officers in watching beastiality pornography and, along with the actions of her fellow officers, is traumatized by this too. After a while the author, angered by these men's action and the willing of the USMC to allow it, she joins in too with the paying for sex and sleeping with married men. It felt hypocritical to me, but I wasn't there. When she returns to the states she learns of a serviceman sexually harassing female soldiers, attempts to get him charged, but the soldier gets off easy. Traumatized by this "slap on the wrist" she quits the Marines and after some dark times becomes an advocate for sexually harassed soldiers and spend much time in Washington trying to get policies changed. The second half gets ugly. One of the ugliest things for me was that she has named the male soldier accused of sexual harassment, he is deployed overseas and is infact killed there. The author hasn't had any problem telling you his name, accusing him of crimes, etc etc. However, when she later recounts a story of a woman who reported being sexually harassed and nothing was done. When the man she accused finds out he kills her, buries her in his backyard, and flees to Mexico. At some point, and I forget the exact context, the author writes something like, "how about some respect for the dead?" even though she has had no problem writing of and naming this man who was also killed. Maybe this guy was guilty. I don't think it was ever proven innocent or guilty, instead swept under the rug, but again it seemed hypocritical to me. Yes one was a victim, one us accused, they are different but both died while in military service the victim by a fellow soldier, the accused by (it's implied) enemy forces. The issue seems to only be that he was a predator for the author, and not that he was KIA. Again, I wasn't there, maybe he was a complete asshole with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, I can't say. Later in the book, with the authors every trip to Capitol Hill to champion anti-sexually harassment legislation, she bad mouths elected officials. In every meeting she counts how many people of color there are in the room and how few "brown people" like herself there are around. I don't ever recall the author quoting a lawmaker (or anyone) making a racial slur toward her. The military is, in my opinion, a pretty diverse bunch these days at least in racial background. Yes, not a lot of women, another item the author constantly points out but it seemed to me that everyone (the military, lawmakers, others in power) were out to get her because she wasn't white, or a dude, or straight but she doesn't provide a lot of evidence toward that, or at least not enough for my taste. Is it a surprise that the boy's club that has largely been the military (especially the officer class) and the government is white males? I don't think it's a surprise to anyone and yet when the author comes in trying to change things the reason isn't that these institution of power don't want to share their power with others but the reason is instead because she is a brown, queer female. I'm sure it's both but again, I don't think the author gives enough evidence to justify why she's being kept from frontline action or why the VA isn't giving her enough disability pay or legislation isn't being passed. At one point, an older white male who has been invited to speak by HER ORGANIZATION to help HER CAUSE offends a lot of people at a conference. Because he's against brown, queer females? I don't think so. I think he's just use to being in a position of power and knowledge he can't help but speak down to people. You want to call it white privilege, then yeah I'll give you that one, but I don't think his words were based on racism or homophobia. Had the author just stuck to using her book as a way to champion her cause and present clear facts I probably would of enjoyed the book much more. But all the mud slinging and self pity and one-sidedness just did not do it for me. I wish the author the best in trying to change things to make thing safer and equal for people of all races, gender, and sexual orientation, again, I applaud her for her efforts there but I don't know if this book will hep her meet her goals. Raise awareness? Yes. But actually change the hearts and minds of those with the power to actually change them? Only time will tell.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Lombard

    I skimmed this book for possible inclusion on an LGBTQ list. I kept getting caught up in her experiences that it made it difficult to skim and put down. Lol. I would like to pick this up when I have more time and read it cover to cover as I do think this is an important book for women in general, women in the military, and anyone in the military, really.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Very interesting insight into the life of a woman in the Marines, challenges faced and how difficult it is to change cultural attitudes and institutions. A really difficult book to read as the author is not without flaws but for me it was very eye opening

  17. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    I can't say I enjoyed reading Unbecoming, because I didn't. Most of the time I forced myself to persevere even when I didn't want to. That's not necessarily because of the writing style, though it sometimes read like a textbook or had the flow of a class lecture, but because sexual harassment and assault are difficult topic matters. Sometimes I wanted to unread what I had just read. Other times the author's anxiety felt like it was leaping off the pages and I internalized it. It made for an unco I can't say I enjoyed reading Unbecoming, because I didn't. Most of the time I forced myself to persevere even when I didn't want to. That's not necessarily because of the writing style, though it sometimes read like a textbook or had the flow of a class lecture, but because sexual harassment and assault are difficult topic matters. Sometimes I wanted to unread what I had just read. Other times the author's anxiety felt like it was leaping off the pages and I internalized it. It made for an uncomfortable, unsettling experience. That said, I'm glad Anuradha Bhagwati told her story and has worked to promote positive and systemic change in the toxic masculinity of military culture. It's not news to me that women are treated differently in the military nor that they are often the victims of misogyny, harassment, and abuse; however, this book certainly shines a light on how they are betrayed by the system that's supposed to protect them and that often protects their perpetrators instead. It doesn't sound all that different from the Catholic Church where they reassign/relocate priests. It's gross and despicable and it needs to stop.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Denise Kruse

    Unflinching and eye-opening. The author, a female US Marine Corp Captain, writes a candid reflection. She is the daughter of strict Indian immigrants who struggles with her parents. She abandons grad school to enlist in the Marines. She confronts all the challenges and adversities imaginable and unimaginable. She determines to fight injustices. After her service she becomes an activist for veterans, particularly female veterans who have been abused in the military. While I fear that her single-m Unflinching and eye-opening. The author, a female US Marine Corp Captain, writes a candid reflection. She is the daughter of strict Indian immigrants who struggles with her parents. She abandons grad school to enlist in the Marines. She confronts all the challenges and adversities imaginable and unimaginable. She determines to fight injustices. After her service she becomes an activist for veterans, particularly female veterans who have been abused in the military. While I fear that her single-mindedness could hurt her cause, I find the book inspiring and well-written. I wish her peace.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Trisha

    This book was a powerful reflection of a world I am entirely unfamiliar with (the Marines) and what it is like to be a woman of color in that world. I thought it was an eye-opening novel that informed me about the realities of people's experiences in the military and how civilians can play a positive or negative role in working with veterans and service members. I highly recommend this book to all. This book was a powerful reflection of a world I am entirely unfamiliar with (the Marines) and what it is like to be a woman of color in that world. I thought it was an eye-opening novel that informed me about the realities of people's experiences in the military and how civilians can play a positive or negative role in working with veterans and service members. I highly recommend this book to all.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Her anger and refusal to fully accept her role, or lack of involvement, in her self-destruction overpowers the value of her story and call to action. She has excellent points about some serious issues in the military but they don’t have a chance to really impact the reader because they get eclipsed by the emotions her story encourage in the reader.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tyree Robinson

    Reading this book it brought back so many memories especially my first few years and last 5 years in the military. True, gut wrenching ordeals, encounters, and events that has rocked and defined not only the Marine Corps but the Armed Forces in general.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Martha Samsell

    Book about female marine who brings attention to sexual harrassment and sexual assault in the military. She also brings attention to the treatment of gay people.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Audiobook Accomplice (Gillian)

    Hmm… Would it be possible to haaaate this any more than I do…? My Full Review Hmm… Would it be possible to haaaate this any more than I do…? My Full Review

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Majkut

    This woman's military memoir allows unrestricted access to a brown female officer's perspective inside the predominantly male US Marine Corps during an era of disruption over the last two decades as servicewomen have become more integrated into combat roles. ⠀ ⠀ Any casual military reader can see that the Marine culture and indoctrination methods described in the book by the author are not new. However, what the author unequivocally conveys is that all Marines, both men and women, are not unscathe This woman's military memoir allows unrestricted access to a brown female officer's perspective inside the predominantly male US Marine Corps during an era of disruption over the last two decades as servicewomen have become more integrated into combat roles. ⠀ ⠀ Any casual military reader can see that the Marine culture and indoctrination methods described in the book by the author are not new. However, what the author unequivocally conveys is that all Marines, both men and women, are not unscathed by the inherent misogyny of the institution as a whole. The pursuit of the eagle, globe and anchor requires the total breakdown of a person into a warrior. The Marines excel at this. Yet, this breakdown is designed purposefully with sexism baked into the process. ⠀ Her training and time spent in Okinawa and Thailand provides a blistering snapshot and indictment of her fellow Marines' obsessions with alcohol, violence and prostitutes and the double-standards applied to female Marines such as Bhagwati, as command leadership looks the other way. This portrayal of vicious brutality, sex and booze was rather soul emptying. ⠀ ⠀ After leaving the Corps, Bhagwati became a fierce advocate for female service members as a founding member of SWAN, the Service Women's Action Network, an advocacy group that fights for military reform. Bhagwati is a particularly bad-ass feminist figure and I look forward to watching what's next for her. I think one of the most interesting layers she brings to her writing is her experience being South Asian. As a young, compliant Desi-American - her parents had very specific designs on what and who she would be and joining the military was not their ideal. ⠀ #Unbecoming #military #memoir #usmc #marines #militarysexualassault #sexism #misogny #feminism #desiamerican #militarywomen #sexualharassment #nonfiction #bookreviews #books #reading #libraries ⠀ ⠀

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anna Gooding-Call

    This was a good split between origin story and activism memoir. I worked with the military as a contractor for a while and have a close retired family member, so I wasn’t too shocked about the sexual harassment problem or the toughen-up mentality that can do so much damage. Service is hard and complicated in ways that civilians (like me) don’t usually know about. Bhagwati joined the Marines for reasons dissimilar to what I’ve heard from some other vets. There was no real economic distress, no de This was a good split between origin story and activism memoir. I worked with the military as a contractor for a while and have a close retired family member, so I wasn’t too shocked about the sexual harassment problem or the toughen-up mentality that can do so much damage. Service is hard and complicated in ways that civilians (like me) don’t usually know about. Bhagwati joined the Marines for reasons dissimilar to what I’ve heard from some other vets. There was no real economic distress, no desire to go to school on the government’s dime, no unusual patriotism or desire to serve her country. She had other options and her priority was to test herself. I think it’s possible that she valued her personal agency more than folks who join because that’s the only option they have. This could be why she became an organizer eventually while most people just shut up and endure whatever military life throws at them. I wish she’d talked a little more about why people, particularly women, join the military in the first place, especially since she does eventually call for more women to enlist. But after all, it was a memoir. I’m not going to take off a star for the fact that she told her story from her perspective. The bottom line is that there needs to be more literature about this topic. This near-present autobiography is a good start.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Desmond

    truly a memoir of madness. Reminded me a lot of Formation: One soldier's memoir of stepping out of LIne and the madness that author recalls and displays. It was interesting to see Bhagwati's take on racism in the military. She mentions briefly what that constant exposure to toxic masculinity and violence might do to enlisted men, and I think that would be a fascinating in depth thing to look at. I also valued her opinion on what happens when liberals try to intervene in military policy making- h truly a memoir of madness. Reminded me a lot of Formation: One soldier's memoir of stepping out of LIne and the madness that author recalls and displays. It was interesting to see Bhagwati's take on racism in the military. She mentions briefly what that constant exposure to toxic masculinity and violence might do to enlisted men, and I think that would be a fascinating in depth thing to look at. I also valued her opinion on what happens when liberals try to intervene in military policy making- how the liberals who think war is bad come across as phony and how they don't actually do much. It led me to really self reflect on what I think about the military and what my role might be in affecting change. Bhagwati also raises an interesting point- what is the military doing that would lead women to leave civilian life for the armed forces? I think women add value to organizations and that having more female leadership in the military would make it better- but does the military also think that? What are they going to do about it? Personally, nothing about the experience of the military makes me want to graduate from my cushy East Coast college and go lose my mind in the military. Working long hours for the advancement of capitalism sounds way better. Nothing ab0ut this book made me want to join the military, unlike Formation.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christa Van

    Bhagwati always chaffed against her conservative Indian parents (both economists) and spent her younger years feeling like she did not fit in anywhere. Somewhat inspired by the movie G. I. Jane, she abandons grad school and joins the Marine Corps. When her training begins, she realizes the movie might not have been exactly accurate. She is subjected to racism, sexual violence, sexism and harassment at a level she was not anticipating. She works hard at overcoming obstacles and standing up for he Bhagwati always chaffed against her conservative Indian parents (both economists) and spent her younger years feeling like she did not fit in anywhere. Somewhat inspired by the movie G. I. Jane, she abandons grad school and joins the Marine Corps. When her training begins, she realizes the movie might not have been exactly accurate. She is subjected to racism, sexual violence, sexism and harassment at a level she was not anticipating. She works hard at overcoming obstacles and standing up for herself, often pushing herself to her limits. Post Marine life is spend dealing with her various traumas and advocating for changes. She throws herself into political activism and makes progress changing laws and attitudes affecting military women. This memoir is so different because the author has done things that so few of us have done. Certainly a lot of insight into problems for women in the military and the many changes that are still needed. Personally a story of struggle with a lot of triumph but sometimes more struggle.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Carla Raisler

    Unbecoming landed in my queue based on recommendations from a women's officer forum I belong to. I didn't know what to expect other than a raw and truthful telling of a Marine's journey as a woman. Perhaps because of my desensitization of our shared experiences in the military, it took me a few chapters to really get into Bhagwati's story. Once I did, I was hooked. I love the slow and viscerally painful transcendence into her final understanding and acceptance of herself. What she was able to ac Unbecoming landed in my queue based on recommendations from a women's officer forum I belong to. I didn't know what to expect other than a raw and truthful telling of a Marine's journey as a woman. Perhaps because of my desensitization of our shared experiences in the military, it took me a few chapters to really get into Bhagwati's story. Once I did, I was hooked. I love the slow and viscerally painful transcendence into her final understanding and acceptance of herself. What she was able to accomplish throughout her career is commendable and should be required reading for any young woman entering the military, regardless of branch. I'm thankful for women like Bhagwati who take the pain and trauma and of their experience and turn it into something powerfully transformative for our future generations. I'm sorry for what you endured and I am thankful for what you accomplished for the rest of us and our future daughters.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Grace Scully

    I would give the first 3/4 of this book 5 stars, but the last 1/4, unfortunately, drops it to 3 stars overall. Her retelling of her experiences in in the Marines was gut-wrenching and maddening. Her writing was the right amount of blunt and the right amount of eloquent, and I'm sure the stories she recounted will stick out in my mind for years to come. However, I felt the portion of the memoir that focused on her years as an activist, while powerful, was bogged down by the intricacies of politic I would give the first 3/4 of this book 5 stars, but the last 1/4, unfortunately, drops it to 3 stars overall. Her retelling of her experiences in in the Marines was gut-wrenching and maddening. Her writing was the right amount of blunt and the right amount of eloquent, and I'm sure the stories she recounted will stick out in my mind for years to come. However, I felt the portion of the memoir that focused on her years as an activist, while powerful, was bogged down by the intricacies of politics and the military-political realm. Some of the details, I thought, were repetitive and didn't contribute much to her message. I was engrossed by her years as a Marine (and before) but found my mind drifting while reading about the many trials she faced as an activist, perhaps because each seemed so similar to the other.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This memoir was fascinating, troubling, angering, and unsatisfying. Fascinating because the curtain was pulled back on on life in the USMC. Angering because of the way life is for women (and men, if you can believe it) for men in the Marine Corps. Unsatisfying because the part of the book that is her retelling of the her life before her diagnosis of PTSD is clearly and powerfully told. The post-diagnosis writing is, well, erratic and confused, and almost like the stream-of-consciousness-rantings This memoir was fascinating, troubling, angering, and unsatisfying. Fascinating because the curtain was pulled back on on life in the USMC. Angering because of the way life is for women (and men, if you can believe it) for men in the Marine Corps. Unsatisfying because the part of the book that is her retelling of the her life before her diagnosis of PTSD is clearly and powerfully told. The post-diagnosis writing is, well, erratic and confused, and almost like the stream-of-consciousness-rantings and calls to action of an individual who identifies as a messiah but is really mentally ill. Bhagwati is a badass. I have a lot of respect for her and I believe every word that she has written. I also believe that whatever the DOD is paying her in disability money it is not enough.

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