Books·Canadian

Girls Need Not Apply

Girls Need Not Apply is a memoir by Kelly S. Thompson.

Kelly S. Thompson

At 18 years old, Kelly Thompson enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces. Despite growing up in a military family — she would, in fact, be a fourth-generation soldier — she couldn't shake the feeling that she didn't belong.

From the moment she arrives for basic training at a Quebec military base, a young woman more interested in writing than weaponry, she quickly realizes that her conception of what being a soldier means, forged from a desire to serve her country after the 9/11 attacks, isn't entirely accurate. A career as a female officer will involve navigating a masculinized culture and coming to grips with her burgeoning feminism.

In this compulsively readable memoir, Thompson writes with wit and honesty about her own development as a woman and a soldier, unsparingly highlighting truths about her time in the military. In sharply crafted prose, she chronicles the frequent sexism and misogyny she encounters both in training and later in the workplace, and explores her own feelings of pride and loyalty to the Forces, and a family legacy of PTSD, all while searching for an artistic identity in a career that demands conformity. When she sustains a career-altering injury, Thompson fearlessly re-examines her identity as a soldier.

Girls Need Not Apply is a refreshingly honest story of conviction, determination, and empowerment, and a bit of a love story, too. (From McClelland & Stewart)

Girls Need Not Apply is Thompson's first book.

From the book

The route to basic training, from Barrie, Ontario, to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, wound coincidentally through Ormstown, where my Grandpa Thompson was buried. Dad and I stopped by after lunch at the Husky diner on the side of Highway 401, where I had a chicken club, sloppy with mayo. Dad had insisted I needed support on the drive, although it felt more like he was escorting an unruly deserter, since he'd brought his own car to get himself home once the new officer cadet — me — was delivered to the Forces.

Grandpa had died two years earlier, when I was sixteen, and I hadn't been to his grave since. Not much had changed about Ormstown: the streets were still haunted by clunky farm machinery; still dotted with brick houses that appeared abandoned or derelict. But Grandpa was here, in the soft ground, and I wanted to take root in the muck that sucked at my shoes, plant myself like a frothy hydrangea so that my impending military career would wither before it even sprouted.


From Girls Need Not Apply by Kelly S. Thompson ©2019. Published by McClelland & Stewart.

Author interviews

What's it like to be a captain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and a woman? We spoke with Kelly Thompson about her experience and her new memoir called "Girls Need Not Apply." 15:39

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