Friday, January 22, 2010

Here's what the Durango Herald Says About Gail Harris' A Woman's War

A Woman’s War, by Gail Harris with Pam McLaughlin. Scarecrow Press, 284 pages, $34.95.
Harris will sign copies of her book from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at Maria’s Bookshop, 960 Main Ave., 247-1438.
A Woman's War, The Professional and Personal Journey of the Navy's First African American Female Intelligence Officer, by Durangoan Gail Harris with Pam McLaughlin, is a revealing look at the inner workings of the United States Intelligence community.
Spurred on by a childhood dream inspired by watching the film “Wing and a Prayer," 5-year-old Harris vowed to become a Navy intelligence officer. It didn't matter to her that no woman or African-American ever had filled that role; Harris was determined to succeed, and her father supported her goal.
This informative and fact-filled book answers many questions the public may have about how our leaders make tactical decisions in times of national emergencies. The behind-the-scenes look at the massive amount of data that must be sorted, and its importance evaluated, boggles the mind.
The U.S. Intelligence Community consists of 18 agencies, including the Navy. These entities provide America with an information advantage, especially the data the president and National Security Council need to make critical decisions to protect U.S. citizens and interests from foreign security threats.
Harris' story will appeal to readers interested in both women's and military history. Because of the huge interest in how the intelligence community operates since Sept. 11, Scarecrow Press is spearheading a group of books on professional intelligence education. A Woman's War is the 10th in this fascinating series. Although these books originally were designed for people studying for a career in intelligence work, the series strives to educate the public about how vital this work is and how it should be conducted.
Personally, Harris had three goals in writing the book, which took her six years to finish and get published. First, she wanted to educate the public, especially those critical of the intelligence community after Sept. 11. She also wanted to encourage young people to consider joining the field as a career choice. And lastly, she wanted to convince everyone to reach for their dreams because she was able to fulfill hers despite great odds.
Faith and family ties are strong partners that helped Harris throughout her career in a male-dominated field. One of her strongest supporters was her father, and she turned to him when the going got tough. A strong faith also inspired her efforts to endure the rigors of military service when far from home and family.
A Woman's War sometimes seems more a professional autobiography than a personal memoir with limited intriguing glimpses into her inner life. Harris shares her battles with prejudice and the trials of being a trailblazer forging a path for those who followed.
Harris also organized the first interagency intelligence conference addressing the new threat of cyber warfare. When Harris retired, she was the highest-ranking African-American woman in the Navy.
One issue woven throughout her story, revealing a double standard in the Navy, is Harris' struggle with her weight. The Navy apparently has regulations regarding height-weight ratio, and it seems to be enforced more for females. At one point, Harris existed on only 500 calories a day and still couldn't lose weight. Finally, she was diagnosed with Graves' disease, which explained many of her physical problems, including her inability to lose weight, an atypical symptom of the illness.
There is a lot of military alphabet soup involved in her narrative, especially because Harris traveled so much and worked in many different areas of intelligence. She reels off such gems as SSBN, FOSIC, USSTRATCOM, SIGNIT and NCIS. The last one is easily recognizable because of the popularity of the television series. She carefully spells out each abbreviation, but for a non-military type it might be difficult to keep track.
During Harris' 28-year career, she helped provide intelligence support for troops around the world from the Cold War to Desert Storm. Harris' tour in the Navy is a good advertisement for its former recruiting phrase: “Join the Navy and see the world."
Leslie Doran is a local freelance writer whose book reviews have appeared in The Denver Post, numerous magazines and other publications. Reach her at

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Connie Gotsch Host Write On Four Corners KSJE FM, Farmington NM Author two award winning novels Snap Me a Future and A Mouthful of Shell available

Always in Print ‘Cuz They’re Print on Demand!

And now out! Belle’s Star,’ a youth novel from Artemesia Press at and, and through your local book store.

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