Deep Dark Blue: A Memoir of Survival

I want to be in the Air Force someday.

These are the words Polo Tate engraved on her junior dog tags at age eleven. It was an unpopular dream for most young girls, but her hard work paid off and at age eighteen, Polo started basic training at the United States Air Force Academy. She does everything right, from academics to athletics. But no one prepared her for what came next: physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of her superiors. Harassment from peers who refused to believe her story. Deep Dark Blue is more than a memoir about sexual assault. It’s about breaking boundaries but also setting them. It’s about learning to trust your instincts. It’s a story of survival, resilience, and finally, finding your joy. Polo Tate is an actor and performer at places such as the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Broadway Comedy Club, Reckless, and the PIT. Deep Dark Blue is her debut memoir. She lives in New York City.

Praise for Deep Dark Blue

Deep Dark Blue tells Polo Tate’s story of abuse – physical, sexual and emotional – after she embarks on her dream of joining Basic Training at the Air Force Academy. It’s clear right away what the culture is and that a certain amount of abuse is both encouraged and tolerated or ignored.

Tate bravely tells her horrifying story and how she fought her way out of the self doubt and pain from her experience. Not an easy read, obviously, but a story that is as powerful as it is harrowing. And ultimately hopeful.  For What It’s Worth

Even from a young age, Polo Tate loved sports and imagined serving in the military. Her first day of basic training at the United States Air Force Academy, where she was also recruited to play for the women’s volleyball team, was the beginning of a dream come true. In her debut memoir, Tate tells how this dream quickly shattered when the women’s volleyball captain, an upperclassman who outranked her, psychologically manipulated and eventually sexually assaulted her. Like many survivors, Tate blamed herself and did not tell anyone. As she describes in detail how her experiences with “Her Horrible Her” begin to impact her physically, emotionally, and academically, she also exposes an eye-opening campus culture in which cadets are expected to be tough, classmates turn a blind eye to those in need, and cruelty runs amok. She delivers more shocking interactions with upperclassmen who warn her to keep her mouth shut with increasing violence that culminates in rape by “Him Horrible Him.” The resulting trauma and downward spiral are stunning and palpable. Although readers may not see the justice Tate deserves, in the end, they do see a young woman who learns to heal and move on. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, this gripping memoir reveals the pervasive effects of abuse of power and the ability to overcome it.  – Booklist Magazine

Polo Tate’s dream was to be in the Air Force. Accepted at eighteen into the United States Air Force Academy and recruited to be a part of the USAFA volleyball team, Tate worked hard and excelled. Basic training was rough, but she always put in the effort to be the best. Tip, the senior volleyball team captain, seemed to take Tate under her wing; it was not until it was too late that Tate realized the special attention was predatory. Tate is sexually assaulted by Tip and, in an effort to scare her into keeping quiet, she is raped by a male senior. Tate’s life quietly spins out of control. She loses friends, is put on academic probation, cannot keep food down, until she finally tells someone about what Tip did to her. Tate is granted medical leave and is able to return as a second-year cadet, but the trauma of what happened rears its head. Eventually, she realizes the Air Force may not be the place for her and ultimately learns that no one can take her joy. In Deep Dark Blue, Tate’s writing flows smoothly, and she uses flashbacks effectively throughout her story to build background. She describes two rape scenes in detail, as well as the physical and mental abuse that she suffered at the hands of those who were supposed to be her community, her second family. The trauma Tate suffered is palpable. Other military memoirs address the issue of sexual assault, but few show, as well as Tate’s that rape, is not about sex; it is about power. Mature young adult readers will find Deep Dark Blue a gripping memoir of survival, resilience, and growth. VOYA
Actor and performer Tate had dreamed of attending the United States Air Force Academy since she was 11. At 18, the popular student athlete got her wish and started her career in the military. Tate was mentally and physically prepared for the rigors of cadet life, but she wasn’t prepared for the violence and sexual assaults she endured, first from a female teammate, mentor, and someone she considered a friend. Her second betrayal comes at the hands of a male upperclassman who was trying to keep Tate quiet concerning the previous incidents. Written in a brash and often jarring vernacular (“GET YOUR BASIC ASSES OUT INTO THE HALLWAY NOOOW, PEOPLE!”), Tate does not hold back from recalling in excruciating detail the assaults and the systematic destruction of her psyche. While her candid and conversational writing style does not always allow for subtlety, her memoir—part cautionary tale and part survival story—finds strength through its raw emotional honesty and brave revelations about the different manifestations of abuse. Ages 17–up. (May) Publisher’s Weekly

Audience Reviews

A gripping and harrowing tale of a resilient hero. Couldn’t put it down.

K. Simon

A story of survival, heartbreaking and inspirational. Highly recommend.

Jane Bits

Wow! Listened to it on Audible. Then listened to it again because it was so great! Bought two copies to give to friends. You will feel every emotion there is when you read Polo’s story. It’s a MUST READ!

Debra Goro

Outstanding!! A MUST read for all young women!!

Diana Tarpoff

I couldn’t put this book down. One of the most powerfully written stories capturing the dark, messy struggle for survival and the life affirming need to find your joy. It’s hauntingly beautiful, descriptive, and ultimately triumphant. The writing is alive, athletic and emotional and the strength and fight of this author vibrates on every page. I am blown away.

Nili Yelin

What an amazing young woman you were and are! Shocking behaviors of highly select people.

Susan M. Scerbo

A must read – a courageous book of authenticity and vulnerability, and a journey back to love and joy


I will recommend this book to everyone I know. Polo captured my attention from the very beginning to the very end. She is wise beyond her years! You will laugh, cry, feel every emotion and find yourself in deep thought about life, lessons and humanity. I hope this is a catalyst to making positive change.


This is a must-read for all of us. Polo Tate’s voice is vibrant, personal, and REAL, speaking about the complexities what happened to her. There are several dimensions to her storytelling, and reading this book was an deep experience of listening to her story. Her insights about the USAFA, the assaults, bullying, and how she persisted throughout the ordeal are complex and reflective, and a message of survival to all of us.

M. Holtschlag

Great read! Truly an inspiring book by an up-and-coming millennial. Couldn’t put it down.

Ron D.

Excellent book. Couldn’t put this down. Speaks to the soul. Anyone who has been affected by grief, assault or any other emotionally traumatic experience will appreciate this writer’s story. Well done Ms. Tate!

Tanya I.

What an amazing literary talent. You are swept in on page 1 & won’t want to put it down. Valuable resources.

Nancy C.

I can’t do this book justice, and I think it will mean different things to different people. Incredibly well written.


I am not a reader but I love memoirs and this one did not disappoint! The authors ability to make you feel as if you are living this experience with her is undeniable. This is an eye opening look at sexual assault not only in the military but also how easily it can happen in a variety of settings. I highly recommend this book for young adults heading off to college, the military or just leaving home for the first time. It is a also a wonderful resource for parents to open the conversation with their own children about how to listen to your inner guidance.

Tech Ninja

This is one of those books that you begin to read and can’t stop because you have to know what happens to the main character. Polo Tate honestly tells her story as a cadet in the United States Air Force Academy. So much bravery and grit from a young woman, still a teenager, who endured everything hurtful, hateful and completely unjust. From the time she was a child, Polo dreamed of being a pilot in the Air Force and playing college volleyball. She earned her way into the academy and onto the volleyball team there but her dream became a living nightmare. She fought her way back from true physical and emotional despair and managed to hold on to her humor and optimism. I have great admiration for Polo for telling her story. This book will help anyone who has struggled with sexual harassment and abuse and does not know how to find help.


Polo Tate writes from her childhood heart to her grown-up wisdom with delight, despair, and gripping storytelling. As she opens her memoir, “No one can take your joy.” I’ll keep that front of mind.

Amy Larkin

Good for you. I’m glad you wrote your book..a must read!!it’s a teriffic read…well done!!


Polo is an excellent writer and this is truly a powerful, important book that should be read by the masses.

Patrick Cotnoir

When I finished reading this book I wanted to hug Polo. She gives hope to be a survivor and choose to move forward and find a new purpose in life.

Amazon Customer

Only a very brave woman could survive this ordeal and also then write about it with such skill and clarity!

Patrica Brookover