by Jillian Danback-McGhan
publication date: February 6, 2024
Women service members confront a world that treats their military service as spectacle in Jillian Danback-McGhan's debut short story collection, Midwatch.
Caught in the liminal spaces between past and present, trauma and recovery, reality and delusion, the women in Midwatch encounter gender performance, structural misogyny, and both social and personal violence. A boarding officer fights her destructive impulses while leading an ill-fated anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden; an alcoholic company officer adjudicates a case of sexual harassment and reciprocal assault; a former child actor turned Marine plans her return to showbusiness while recovering from an IED attack; and a young petty officer finds herself entangled in a murderous love triangle on her new ship.
Blending military literature and feminist horror, Midwatch tells the overlooked stories of women service members, demanding that readers reconsider the roles of women in violent conflicts.
Praise for Midwatch:
"Midwatch heralds the arrival of a bright, new voice in literature. Like those midwatch hours where truths, traumas, and nightmares come to haunt, Danback-McGhan’s exquisite and unforgettable stories reveal the ways that women are made to pay for serving in the military. Heartbreaking, funny, and wise, Danback-McGhan’s debut will linger beyond the midwatch hours."
—Ivelisse Rodriguez, author of PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction finalist Love War Stories
"Jillian Danback-McGhan arrives with a great blend of literary swagger and artistic vision. The stories that make up Midwatch are beautiful, sad, tender and fierce; from the streets of DC to the Gulf of Aden, we meet young women in the Navy trailblazing, and sometimes hell raising, for country. What a bold, brilliant debut."—Matt Gallagher, author of Daybreak, Empire City, and Youngblood.
"A Billy Budd-esque tale of self-defense against shipboard politics and sexual predators. A pod of garrison wives smells blood in pre-deployment waters. A modern woman-at-arms manifests as her own, self-actualized god of violence. These are gut-churning sea stories, worthy of standing any gothic lit-lover’s graveyard shift—and each gritty enough to fuel a full-steam-ahead workshop on leadership ethics and military life. Soldier or sailor, veteran or citizen: Read. This. Book."
—Randy Brown, co-editor of Why We Write: Craft Essays on Writing War
"From a hospital-induced haze, to abuses of power, Midwatch reveals a culture that contemporary war-lit has barely touched, showcasing the unique ways Navy characters make meaning of the inexplicable. No war-lit collection is complete without this book!"
—Katey Schultz, author of Still Come Home and Flashes of War
"Midwatch pulled me in like Charybdis and left me swirling in a wreckage of wartime traumas, women’s lives, and family dramas stuck in generational loops. These finely drawn portraits of Navy life ground universal tales of feminist horror in settings that are alternately terrifying and believable. Jillian Danback-McGhan is a marvel, and this collection will shatter you and leave you craving her next release."
—Dr. Liam Corley, author of Unwound: Poems of Enduring War
"These are the sea stories we’ve been waiting for. More than the prose, more than the characters, more than the plots (all and each of which are, let’s be clear, amazing), it’s the compelling urgency, the necessity of reading and listening to and heeding the clarion call in each of these sharp, taut tales: beware the power of stories, behold the power of stories. More than twenty years of war have scarred our nation and our planet, and Midwatch demands that we not look away, that we not stuff up our ears, that we believe the women who’ve sacrificed when they tell us what it cost."
—Travis Klempan, author of Have Snakes, Need Birds and Hills Hide Mountains
Jillian Danback-McGhan is an author and Navy veteran. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Military Experience & the Arts, storySouth, Line of Advance, The Wrath-Bearing Tree, the anthology Our Best War Stories (Middle West Press, 2022), and elsewhere. Jillian is the recipient of the 2020 Col. Darron L. Wright Memorial Writing Award and is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, George Mason University, and Georgetown University. She lives in Annapolis, MD with her family.