"Formation - A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line"

Cheryl Strayed’s Wild meets Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead in this powerful literary memoir of a young Army recruit driven to prove herself in a man’s world.

Raised by powerful women in a restrictive, sheltered Christian community in New England, Ryan Dostie never imagined herself on the front lines of a war halfway around the world. But then a conversation with an Army recruiter in her high-school cafeteria changes the course of her life. Hired as a linguist, she quickly has to find a space for herself in the testosterone-filled world of the Army barracks, and has been holding her own until the unthinkable happens: she is raped by a fellow soldier.

Struggling with PTSD and commanders who don’t trust her story, Dostie finds herself fighting through the isolation of trauma amid the challenges of an unexpected war. What follows is a riveting story of one woman’s extraordinary journey to prove her worth, physically and mentally, in a world where the odds are stacked against her.


Formation on "Top Read Lists"




  • Jake Halpern - Ryan Leigh Dostie (Book Review)
    “Here is the war memoir re-invented. Dostie offers a beautiful, soulful, and astonishingly fresh take on the war in Iraq, and a deeply original book. Formation should be a must read at West Point, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and all points in between.“
    —Jake Halpern
    New York Times bestselling author of BAD PAPER
  • Sarah Hepola - Ryan Leigh Dostie (Book Review)
    "Formation grabs us by the collar and never relents, much like Dostie herself, whose path to independence gets paved with blood and sacrifice. Her gripping memoir lays bare the pain of proving yourself in a man's world, but also the rich rewards. Most of us will probably never go to war, but Dostie's story speaks to a daily struggle many of us face: the battle to believe in ourselves."
    — Sarah Hepola
    New York Times bestselling author of BLACKOUT
  • Christa Parravani - Ryan Leigh Dostie (Book Review)
    "An essential telling of one woman's account of training and combat: staggeringly beautiful, gutsy, and harrowing. Dostie has written the rare memoir that is destined to be a classic. I couldn't put this book down and I never wanted it to end."
    — Christa Parravani
    Bestselling author of HER: A MEMOIR
  • Anthony Swofford - Ryan Leigh Dostie (Book Review)
    "FORMATION is a brilliant addition to the memoirs of war. With grounded and elegant prose Dostie narrates her harrowing journey into combat and through the violent quagmire of Military Sexual Trauma. We should all read this heroic and timely book.”
    — Anthony Swofford
    New York Times bestselling author of JARHEAD
  • Phil Klay - Ryan Leigh Dostie (Book Review)
    "Though I knew it would be urgent, compelling, and excellent from the first page, Formation was a much more expansive book than I even could have suspected: a riveting, enraging memoir from an author of remarkable toughness and emotional range. This is an unflinching and honest account of war, of homecoming, and of what happens when a woman reports an assault and the institutions around her try to smother the truth."
    — Phil Klay
    National Book Award-winning author of Redeployment


Ryan Leigh Dostie


Ryan Leigh Dostie is a novelist turned soldier turned novelist. As an Army Persian-Farsi/Dari Linguist in Military Intelligence, she was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, where she translated very little, because they mostly speak Arabic in Iraq. After being wowed by the brilliant efficiency of the Army, Ryan left the military world for academic pursuits.

She’s studied abroad a few times, backpacked through several countries, learned a couple of languages, and wrote a whole lot. She holds an MFA in fiction writing and a bachelor’s degree in history from Southern Connecticut State University. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut with her husband, one wondrously wild daughter, and a very large Alaskan Malamute.


  • Ryan Leigh Dostie
  • Ryan Leigh Dostie
  • Ryan Leigh Dostie
  • Ryan Leigh Dostie
  • Ryan Leigh Dostie
  • "Formation - A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line" by Ryan Leigh Dostie
  • "Formation - A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line" by Ryan Leigh Dostie