Although Shoshana Johnson was raised an army brat, she joined the army for the same reason a lot of young Americans do: to earn money for college.
Johnson became a chef, and she assumed, like many army maintenance soldiers, that she wouldn't be needed for battle. "War wasn't part of my job," she writes. Fast-forward five years, to March 2003, and Johnson is a badly wounded prisoner of war in Iraq.
This memoir bounces around between war, family, politics, and Johnson's life in the army, where it isn't easy for a woman in combat. Johnson faces belittling jokes from male soldiers, who think women soldiers care more about their nails than saving lives (which makes it especially cringe-worthy when Johnson complains about her unruly hair in combat and then expresses joy at losing 20 pounds while in captivity). There are surprising stories of humanity shown by Iraqi soldiers while Johnson was held captive for 22 days, as well as terrifying scenes in which defenseless young men and women in uniform are shot at and killed. But perhaps the hardest part to read is her description of what she faced after her rescue by marines. She struggles with depression and nightmares, and the media attention she receives as the first African-American female prisoner of war earns her resentment within the army. Then her friend Jessica Lynch, another POW from her unit, comes home to a hero's welcome and nearly twice as much in disability benefits, sending Johnson into another fight-for equality. And though Johnson forgives and strives to heal, you feel a sense of injustice in the air.