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I listen to a lot of audiobooks, read a lot of library books and e-books, still somehow never have enough room on my bookshelves.

Had a picture of Perron in a grade-school textbook. She earned it.

Out Standing in the Field: A Memoir by Canada's First Female Infantry Officer - Sandra Perron

This is the story of an army brat who lived and breathed the Canadian Armed Forces, wanted to be a paratrooper who whole life, and then spent a twelve-year army career watching the institution she loved break her heart. (Also, I recently thanked Mom for not letting me join the navy when I was sixteen.)


The author does a really good job of laying out both how she was feeling as events occurred, and a retrospective of how she saw it as an older/wiser/less indoctrinated woman. It's not bashing the army as a whole, but she's clearly very angry at the grinding discrimination and harassment she faced over her whole career, how everyone knew it was happening but didn't care, and the loss of what she wanted give her whole life towards. I liked how honest she was about her own failings at the time, and how she spoke up less than she might have when faced with terrible double standards. (If she just took the harassment, it was licence for more; if she spoke up, she was thin-skinned and a whiner.)


(I read this not long after reading the war memoirs of Dick Winters, the WWII paratrooper, and was struck by how much solace he found in camaraderie, especially with fellow officers. With few exceptions, that was not something Perron got to enjoy, and it made all the difference to her military experience.)


She also covers what military training was like, a lot about how the army is organised and her role with two UN peacekeeping tours in Bosnia in the early '90s, all of which I found interesting. Her writing is clear, often funny, and has a good eye for the people around her and the heart in army life. How much she loved the work, even when it was difficult and heartbreaking shone through everything.


I would like to think that if Perron joined the infantry today, she'd have a much different experience, and there certainly have been decorated female soldiers since then. There have also been multiple dire reports on systemic gender discrimination in the armed forces as recently as last year.  I believe the men in the army can do better. They just need to man up and deal.