Private 101: One Lesbian’s Army Training by LJ Scarborough.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.
Though Ms. Scarborough states that characters, events and incidents in Private 101 are “either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner”, the book seems very autobiographical. Regardless of how much is real, or fictional, this is a very interesting read. There are no glossy, elaborate characterizations, or sub-plots, just a straightforward, insightful, adventure with a woman finding her way.
I enjoyed this story because it took me to a place, and situations, which I have not, and will never, experience. For those who have been in the service, especially the Army, this will feel very familiar, and I expect, will find it quite enjoyable as well. Last, but not least, for anyone considering volunteering for the Army, I suggest you read this first, as it gives a very good accounting. You may have second thoughts, or wish to jump right in.
After breaking up with her girlfriend, or I should say, after her girlfriend leaves her for another woman in Seattle, Evelyn MacCellan Jones decides to check out the armed services and ends up joining the Army reserve. Fresh out of college, with loans, and no job possibilities, she sees it as a positive new direction, and a way to pay off her student debt. She thinks she knows what she’s getting into. She sort of does, and doesn’t.
What transpires, is a detailed account of her time in basic training, her new friends (including lover Becky “Becks”), the rigors of boot camp, and everything she learns about herself along the way. In addition to an a-hole Sergeant (Sanders), she also meets other women and men who are attempting to do the best they can. There is frustration, loneliness, hope, self-doubt, humor, and pride.
Private 101 reads almost like a confessional, with nothing left out. It is as if the author wishes us to know first hand the reality of signing up, and going through basic training, without concluding that it is good or bad. It is what it is, and readers’ get to decide if it is something they would be personally interested in, or wish to stay away from, as far as possible. Ms. Scarborough writes well, with conviction, and clarity.