Chasing the Daylight

One Woman's Journey to Becoming a US Army Intelligence Officer

Non-Fiction - Memoir
412 Pages
Reviewed on 06/20/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Chasing the Daylight: One Woman’s Journey to Becoming a US Army Intelligence Officer by JoAnna Rakowski is an up-close, in-your-face memoir of the struggles of a young Polish immigrant trying to find her place in America, after moving there when she married an American. JoAnna was a former ballerina and a student of French and dance in Poland when she emigrated to the US and married Alec. Although a gifted linguist, she struggled with English and finding her place in American society. Feeling lost and adrift, JoAnna decides to join the United States Army, partly to give service to the new country she now calls home but also to find herself and be part of something larger than herself. With her mastery of four languages other than English, she finds herself a prime candidate to be a member of Army Intelligence. This memoir traces her journey, first as a newly inducted soldier, through basic training at a variety of U.S. bases and onto specialist training as an intelligence operative in Arizona and then further training, as an Officer candidate. Throughout this journey, she seeks not only to excel but is determined she will not give up, no matter how hard the training or how much pain she must endure. The memoir is liberally sprinkled with reminiscing about her time in Poland and her beloved friendship with her former professor, Chris, from whom she is now estranged.

Chasing the Daylight pulls no punches and tells it exactly like it is. Author JoAnna Rakowski describes in vivid detail the mental, emotional, and immense physical effort required to achieve success in the Army training courses, especially for one as physically petite as her. I particularly appreciated that for many of her colleagues, just being a woman should probably have disqualified her from being a soldier and this was a constant battle to prove herself. What I enjoyed most about this memoir was the thoughtful, self-reflection the author went through in discovering herself and her purpose. Although she was frequently extremely hard on herself mentally, it was clear that those that mattered in the process, the trainers, were generally exceedingly impressed by this woman’s abilities. As a reader I inwardly winced at the physical pain these recruits were subjected to daily, never mind the never-ending pressure mentally and emotionally not to fail, not to drop out. What the author found was that she had reserves that she never realized and despite her self-deprecating statements at times, it was clear she ended this entire process extremely proud of herself and what she had become. I liked that she also threw light on the pressures on a marriage that a member of the armed forces experiences, with so much time away from your loved ones and the worries they experience about your well-being. This is a solid read and finding out the nuts and bolts of military service is something I enjoyed immensely. I can highly recommend this read.