It's difficult to find a single quote to quantify the anger that sticks in one's craw while reading Ryan Leigh Dostie's Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line. The sheer number, along with Dostie's evocative recounting, renders it impossible ... Neither Dostie nor her memoir is defined by her rape, but it viscerally informs them ... Formation delves brilliantly into the Venn diagram of trauma, patriarchy, the military and what it means to be a woman at the center.
It is an unpleasant experience to read Dostie’s first-person account of her own violation ... It’s sickening and visceral ... Formation works very well, maintaining an aggressive, fast-paced momentum for most of its 300 pages. Dostie covers a large scope of her pre- and post-war experiences, as well as an unromantic view of military life, stateside and at war ... The book’s timed right for the #MeToo era, presenting what demeaning harassment and unpunished crimes look like from the woman’s point of view.
From her first 11 years being raised in a Christian cult, through her deployment, and then her move to the academic world, bearing the trauma of PTSD and searching for an elusive sense of closure, Dostie exposes the terrible isolation of fighting a lonely battle for justice against an all-powerful institution.
In the sparse landscape of war memoirs by female soldiers, Dostie’s resolute, literary account of her five years in the army sets a benchmark ... Dostie writes powerfully in this raw, explosive memoir.
Discussing how her account of the events and her credibility were undermined, Dostie exposes how pervasive bias functions in this guarded system ... she ably demonstrates the contrast between developing agency and a strong sense of self after sexual assault and the demands of the Army power structure, which expected more obedience than independence. Each of these narratives deserves to be heard, and though they may have been stronger as two pieces, Dostie does a service by frankly confronting the hypermasculinized culture of the armed forces. An occasionally uneven but unquestionably inspiring story traversing the personal and public battlefields of sexual assault in the armed forces.