Cheers to CAGED EYES, A Greatly Important Book

This week, we’re celebrating the release of Lynn K. Hall’s memoir, CAGED EYES: An Air Force Cadet’s Story of Rape and Resilience. Pause for Leo:

I’ll admit I was nervous to read this book based on the subject matter alone. I was afraid. If that sounds cowardly, irresponsible, and selfish, it’s because it is. I’m ashamed to admit I evade a lot of things that make me uncomfortable. And, I’ll be honest, when I began reading, I had to disassociate the Lynn I had gotten to know from the Lynn in the book. But as I met Lynn for the first time last weekend, as I gave her a hug, as we chatted, and as we all welled up with tears while talking about the importance of her book and her piece in the New York Times, I couldn’t help seeing the young woman from the book and my heart ached for her.

It sounds creepy, but, throughout the night, I found myself watching Lynn (who was in turn watching Amy’s cat the majority of the time. Lynn is the definition of cat lady), and I was in awe of the woman that Lynn has become. Strong. Vibrant. Funny. Classy. Articulate. Humble, considering my flattery is probably embarrassing her right now. But come on, this girl climbed Aconcagua, the highest peak in the southern hemisphere. The only peak taller is Mount Everest, which she’ll probably climb one day as well. This is the girl who does ultra marathons. I can barely register the physical and mental strength those tasks include. This is the girl who counsels others, who advocates for others, who marches, who uses her voice to better our world, who found a pure love after being raped, who loves herself (and her five cats). She’s kinda a big deal, an even bigger deal if you read CAGED EYES and see all that she’s overcome.

A reviewer of CAGED EYES had this to say about Lynn’s memoir:

Kudos to the author for surviving more than one ordeal of rape and becoming a rape counselor. But the book is too graphic and profane for my tastes. If it inspires others, great. But not a great book by any stretch of the imagination.

Yes, kudos to Lynn. She’s remarkable. She’s a survivor. But… pause to throw Leo’s drink in this man’s face… because who the hell are you to say this book isn’t great? Is it because it made you uncomfortable? Is it because you read things you didn’t like, Paul? This book made me uncomfortable at times too, but mostly because I couldn’t fathom a human being overcoming these events and emotions. But it didn’t take even an ounce of imagination to recognize Lynn’s talent at writing, to recognize how well she pieced together her “story”, or how gripping each page was. It wasn’t too profane or graphic for my tastes. It was real life. 100% real. And, in the end, this book made me feel ashamed that I initially felt afraid to read her very important words.

This book is great. It’s greatly important, and I think this reviewer’s response underscores the importance of others reading about Lynn’s experiences. Lynn’s book does inspire me. Activism can be big, activism can be small. I think what’s important is pointing our efforts in a positive direction, and to show my gratitude toward Lynn for sharing her life with us, I’d like to make a pledge, an albeit small act of activism:

  • I pledge to teach my son to respect women
  • I pledge to teach (and also be a role model for) my daughter that her gender isn’t a limitation
  • I pledge to teach my children to show compassion for all
  • I pledge for myself to be more open to ideas that are different from my own (unless those ideas come from Paul), especially if they make me uncomfortable.

Cheers to you, Lynn.

About CAGED EYES:

An insider’s account of misogyny and rape in the US military and her extraordinary path to recovery and activism

Desperate to realize her childhood dream of being an astronaut, Lynn K. Hall was an enthusiastic young cadet. For Hall, the military offered an escape from her chaotic home—her erratic mother, absent biological father, and a man she called “dad” who sexually abused her. Resolute and committed to the Air Force Academy, Hall survived the ordeals of a first-year cadet: intense hazing from upperclassmen, grueling physical training, and demanding coursework. But she’s dismissed from the Academy when, after being raped by an upperclassman and contracting herpes, she is diagnosed with meningitis and left with chronic and debilitating pain.

Betrayed by the Academy and overcome with shame, Hall candidly recounts her loss of self, the dissociation from her body and the forfeiture of her individuality as a result of the military’s demands and her perpetrator’s abuse. Forced to leave the military and return to the civilian world, Hall turns to extreme sports to cope with and overcome PTSD and chronic pain. She, in turn, reclaims herself on the mountain trails of the Colorado Rockies.

An intimate account of grappling with shame and a misogynistic culture that condones rape and blames victims, Caged Eyes is also a transformative story of how it’s possible to help yourself and others in the aftermath of a profound injustice.

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Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years ​chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Jenni's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume. She now balances her laptop with a kid on each hip, and a four-legged child at her feet. BECOMING BONNIE (Tor Forge/Macmillan, 5/9/2017) is her debut novel that tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. SIDE BY SIDE, telling Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree story, will be released in the summer of 2018. Please learn more about Jenni's books at jennilwalsh.com.

This article has 2 Comments

  1. Jenni, I’m an avoider too! Case in point: I’ve been avoiding commenting on this post, because it is so hard to absorb all of these wonderful, complimentary words. I’m sitting here at a panel at AWP welling up. So thanks for embarrassing me in public! But seriously? thank you. And that list at the end is amazing.

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