Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq

Edited by Lisa Bowden and Shannon Cain





Sharon D. Allen

Cameron Beattie

Judith K. Boyd

Dhana-Marie Branton

Charlotte M. Brock

Christy L. Clothier

Donna Dean

Deborah Fries

Victoria A. Hudson

Terry Hurley

Bobbie Dykema Katsanis

Anna Osinska Krawczuk

Elizabeth Keough McDonald

Heather Paxton

Khadijah Queen

K.G. Schneider

Martha Stanton

Elaine Little Tuman

Rachel Vigil

Read more of what these authors have to say in the Powder blog!



Excerpt from “Lost in Translation”

One of our guys brought this guitar around to the guard shacks and played some American music. The Iraqis joined in. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a bunch of Iraqi soldiers, complete with AK-47s, sitting around and singing with gusto as they mangle the Beatles’ “Let It Be.”

   In times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom…Little Pea.”

   They really got into it.

   Little Pea, Little PEA! Little Pea, yeah, Little Pea…Whisper words of wisdom, Little Pea.

—Sharon Allen


Stretcher 2


An engineman

who will not make it.

Who catches the eye

of the storekeeper next to him

when he takes his last breath.

When he takes his last breath,

a young man laughs:

"You are dead American!" he shouts

into a bleeding ear, snatches

ring and watch and golden

cross, runs into smoke

and crowd and flight.

—Kadijah Queen

Excerpt from “Hymn”


This soldier was not in too bad a state.  He had died a few hours before, from gunshot wounds, and rigor mortis had already set in.  His body, although dirty, stiff, and pale, was intact.  His mouth was set in a rictus, which made him difficult to look at for too long.  The smell was wet and sweet and thick.  He was there.  My position in the huge room was relative to him.  He was the zero around which we moved, quietly but quickly.

—Charlotte Brock

From the Foreward

Some of the female soldiers in this book are refreshingly honest about the grueling conditions and moral disgust they experienced at war, especially in Iraq. Others tell of the courage and sacrifices made by their fellow soldiers, and of their pride in their service. Many speak of the divide they feel between their civilian and soldier selves now that they are home. Some write heartbreakingly about the abuse they endured from their supposed comrades. But whatever their tales, and whatever their perspectives, their voices are fresh and important. These women have seen and done things few people ever see or do. They have much to tell us about morality, courage, fear, betrayal -- and, of course, war.

 —Helen Benedict

Columbia University Professor of Journalism

Author of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq

(Beacon Press, 2009)