Tag Archives: nonfiction

Caged Eyes

Caged Eyes: An Air Force Cadet’s Story of Rape and Resilience – Lynn K. Hall

As a young girl with big dreams, Lynn Hall set her sights on the stars. She steadfastly pursued her goal of becoming an astronaut, holding herself to incredibly high academic goals, maintaining physical fitness, and becoming thoroughly involved in the local arm of the Civil Air Patrol all in preparation for her application to the Air Force Academy. Nothing would prevent her from becoming an Air Force pilot, not even when her flight instructor began molesting and sexually assaulting her. When she did eventually arrive at the legendary Academy, she felt she had finally escaped a difficult past and found a world of opportunities. In addition to dealing with all the typical transitions from high school to college, Lynn also faced grueling physical training, intentionally demeaning behavior from upperclassman, and blatant sexism. When seeking to reestablish a sense of independence and passion, Lynn met with an upperclassman to learn more about additional flight opportunities. When he raped her, she was not only betrayed by this student, but also by the doctors from whom she sought care, the community she had worked so hard to become part of, and the institution she had revered since childhood. She became infected with herpes, which turned into viral meningitis and ultimately untreated encephalitis, leaving her with a chronic headache and a multitude of difficulties. Despite struggling through another year of cadet training, Lynn was eventually deemed incapable of becoming a pilot due to medical complications, and she began reassembling her life piece by piece in pursuit of healing herself and helping others.

“Caged Eyes” by Lynn K. Hall is the kind of story that hits you like the shock of jumping into freezing water. You know what’s coming, and you know the eventual outcome, but that foresight does nothing to lessen the impact. Unapologetic and unrelenting, Hall recounts her story of rape and sexual assault with straightforward candor. She is not apologetic for naming the harm caused to her by the people, professionals and institutions that she turned to for help and support, and neither is she apologetic for the discomfort caused by sharing her story publicly. Hall’s own experience is not exempt from this direct tone, and she discloses the shame, guilt, and emotional turmoil she felt at each encounter and each betrayal. Her self-awareness and insight into her own thought processes and emotional responses humanize and personalize her experience of sexual violence within a military institution. Although her story consists of unbelievable pain and suffering, it is simultaneously steeped in optimism and hope. Even when faced with insurmountable obstacles, Hall invariably returns to her belief in her ability to survive, thrive, and achieve great things.

Wow. It’s hard to find the exact right words to describe this book, but it is certainly a must-read. On the condition that you have strong support networks that are easily accessible, and possibly some distractions lined up to take your mind off the unbelievable mistreatment and neglect Hall endured at the hands of the people and institutions she trusted. Heartwrenching and heartfelt, this book will move you in all directions at the same time. Do what you can to prepare yourself, but there is nothing you can do to lessen the shock of her story.

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Samoa, A Hundred Years Ago and Long Before

By George Turner

Something of a history book, George Turner offers his observations of the traditions, beliefs, behaviors, and routines of Samoan people sometime around 1880-90 (ish). He describes everything from the geography of the island chain (including American Samoa which was, at the time of publication, part of the country of Samoa instead of a U.S. territory) and the political and decision-making systems of village and district chiefs down to common foods (and how to prepare them) and attire for day-to-day use as well as special events. He even delves into the creation myths from indigenous gods and belief systems, and also the stories behind the names of various islands and villages. If it can be observed and written about by a white guy, Turner documents it.

“Samoa, A Hundred Years Ago and Long Before” is organized in a straightforward fashion without any preamble, probably similar to other writing at the time of publication (I haven’t read many documents from 1880-90, so it’s hard for me to compare). Each chapter is titled with an entirely self-explanatory heading, and subheadings indicate the specific topic to be addressed in the following paragraph. Chapters are fairly short, which makes it easier to put down and pick up the book for bite-sized reading.¬†Differences in grammar and sentence length sometimes make it difficult to follow the topic of a sentence, which can make it hard to find flow when reading (but certainly make for interesting meta-analysis of the writing and content!).

I read this book mainly because I am an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) from Samoa and wanted to know more about the pre-missionary history of Samoa, and partly because the recently released “Moana” movie addresses myths and gods with which I was unfamiliar from my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Clearly, my knowledge of Samoa has gaping holes. I found answers to some of my questions, and was particularly fascinated by the chapters detailing the histories of island and village names (to the point of feeling giddy and making exclamations out loud while reading the origin stories). Much of the book I read with a grain of salt because Turner writes with a colonial attitude toward the Samoan natives, frequently referring to their “heathen” behavior. If your interests fall within the very specific range of material addressed in this book, then it is worth the read. For the general public, probably not.

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