A Memoir A Decade and a Half in the Making

By happenstance, today marks five months until my memoir, Caged Eyes: An Air Force Cadet’s Story of Rape and Resilience, hits shelves. As my publicist said, “It’s go time,” and I can’t think of a more amazing way of celebrating than beginning my year here on The Debutante Ball.

To say this memoir has been a long time in the making is a comical understatement.

The first time I thought of writing a book, I hadn’t even finished living through what would ultimately become the full memoir. It was 2003, and I was a cadet at the Air Force Academy. The Academy was in the midst of one of the military’s most far-reaching scandals as six women were interviewing with national media and testifying in congress that they had been raped as cadets and punished for it. I knew the women. We had all been a part of an underground network of rape survivors. They had all been expelled; I was still struggling to make it to graduation.

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Though the military instituted many structural changes after the media attention, I feared that the culture which blamed and silenced victims while protecting perpetrators wouldn’t truly change. The inherit nature of TV and magazines made for the perfect venue to build outrage over the issue, but even an entire Oprah episode didn’t allow for the complete, nuanced telling of the women’s stories. I first thought of writing a book because I wanted those who watched my friends on TV to fully step into our experiences in a way they weren’t able to in sixty minutes.

In the years that followed, my continuing motivation to write the memoir stemmed from meeting hundreds of other survivors – first as a veteran’s hospital patient, then as a victim advocate, and now as a memoirist. When I confessed the most humiliating parts of my story in therapeutic groups, invariably someone else would respond, “me too.” Those words, “me too,” saved me.

What I’ve learned is that sharing our stories, meeting each other with empathy, and ending the shame once put upon us is one of the ultimate forms of activism.

My path publication included years of learning the craft of creative writing (former math major over here!) as well as finding enough healing to be able to publicly share my story.

Publishing this memoir fills me with the full range of feelings – another understatement alert – but I believe the hardest things in life, the things that make us the most vulnerable, are often the most rewarding, and that’s what I’m hoping for Caged Eyes.

It’s an absolute honor to follow in the footsteps of Louise, Jennifer, Heather, Abby, and Aya. I can’t wait to navigate this year with fellow Debutantes Crystal, Amy, Tiffany, and Jenni. I’m already struck by them and their stories; I think you will be too!

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Lynn Hall is a memoirist, activist in the movement to end sexual violence, ultra-runner, and crazy cat lady. Her memoir, CAGED EYES: AN AIR FORCE CADET’S STORY OF RAPE AND RESILIENCE, was published by Beacon Press in February 2017. Her writing has previously appeared in the New York Times, The LA Times, Hippocampus Magazine, The Sexual Assault Report, The Manifest-Station, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and elsewhere. In the summers, Lynn copes with publication anxiety by spending too many days in the Colorado mountains, and in the winters, with pans of brownies. She lives in Boulder with her partner and their 23 cats. Just kidding…she only has five.

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This article has 20 Comments

  1. This book is so powerful from the very first words. By the end of the 3-page prologue (that final line… wow), I felt sick to my stomach that this environment actually exists, while also feeling immensely proud of Lynn for not only surviving but for being brave enough to tell her story. “It’s go time!” is right.

  2. The world is lucky for brave memoirist like you. On behalf of my eight year old daughter, thank you for putting a needed microphone to the reality of rape culture.

  3. Lynn, I’m so happy to see you represented on the Deb Ball and applaud your bravery for telling your story. (Also, love the title!)

    Your message that the words “me too,” saved you is a powerful one. It seems like we (women in particular) are so concentrated on painting this pretty picture for everyone that we are afraid to be real, and then when we’re going through something we feel like we’re the only ones, and I can’t even imagine how much deeper that goes for a rape survivor in the military. I think “Me too,” is among the most powerful phrases women can utter to each other.

    I look forward to more posts!

  4. Lynn, I have no doubt that your memoir will help so many people. You’re one extraordinary woman, a heck of a writer, and I’m excited to vicariously join you on this inaugural journey! (I’ll also haul books into any Arizona venue that you book for signings). Go go go!!

  5. Lynn-you continue to inspire and motivate me with your strength, bravery, and empathy for supporting others on your memoir journey. The fact that you worked with children who had been through horrific things as well says so much about who are you are as a person. You are such an inspiration-can’t wait to read your full story. “Go time!!!!”

  6. Dearest Lynn, this is such a reaffirmation of what is truly good in this world: turning a terrible circumstance into a lightning rod for change, for connection and solidarity, and for power and growth. Amazing.

  7. Dear Lynn,
    I grew up as an Air Force Brat in the 50s and 60s, the daughter of a career officer who served in World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam. My dad did not attend the Air Force Academy, although he would have considered it a privilege and honor to do so.
    My father’s generation couldn’t imagine a woman as a cadet, but I know that he and the men he knew would be outraged by the criminals who raped you and created the culture of rape within the Air Force.
    Thank you for writing the memoir to shed light on the darkness that has invaded our Armed Forces at the highest levels. I hope the book is a great success. I look forward to reading it.

    1. Hi, Marian, Thank you so much for reading and for your support. Yes, I understand that for a lot of the men who served in generations before us, the idea of women in the military is hard for them. Change is always hard. But thank you for your kind words, and I can’t wait for Caged Eyes to be out and available to read!

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