I’ll keep writing about it until neither of us needs to.
This year has seen the release of a number of high-profile books about sexual assault, #MeToo, and the global exposing of sexual predators. From Chanel Miller’s Know My Name to Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s She Said, it appears that key voices are now rising to the foreground to tell tales in the hopes of capturing attention and effecting change. But these aren’t the only accounts; in the last six months, I’ve devoured as many books on the subject as I could. It’s been a difficult year, but the books listed below have given me new views, new learning curves, and lots to think about.
Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl by Jeannie Vanasco
When Vanasco was just a teenager, she was raped by one of her closest friends. #MeToo brought the horrible truth of the situation back to her, prompting her to take a risk that few of us would consider: she went out to her rapist to try to understand what had happened and why. He got back to me. They came together. They exchanged words. The result is a memoir that delves deep into trauma, friendship, and the pervasive rape culture that affects us all.
Rape: From Lucretia to #MeToo by Mithu Sanyal
You may not agree with everything in this book – I certainly did not – but Sanyal’s book tore my heart apart nonetheless. She takes a variety of viewpoints on sexual assault and flips them inside out, pushing everyone to play devil’s advocate and analyze why our global understanding is so lacking. Sanyal urges that we push ourselves to a greater understanding of everything from black rapist clichés to the absence of male victims.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by Sohalia Abdulali
In a similar vein to Sanyal’s work, Abdulali invites the reader to shift the discourse by challenging assumptions in order to improve the future generation’s grasp of the subject. Abdulali was a victim of gang rape as a youngster in Bombay (as it was then) and has dedicated her life to raising awareness about the problem. Her writing is straightforward and no-nonsense, but it is clearly disturbing.
Missoula by Jon Krakauer
Krakauer, whose name is more commonly associated with Outside magazine, focused his attention on Missoula, Montana, and a four-year period during which the city suffered a rash of sexual assaults and allegations. He documents the tragedies, injustices, and devastation of a system that is meant to protect offenders every step of the way, using an ordinary American community as a microcosm of a much broader issue. Krakauer is notorious for creating page-turners, and this is no exception; it is both harrowing and fascinating.
I Have The Right To by Chessy Prout
Prout had been sexually raped by a senior when she was a freshman. She reported it and went to court to confront her assailant. When her school’s community turned against her, she stepped forward under the guise of anonymity to point out that the structures we rely on are failing. There is trauma here, but there is also hope – that things will change one day.
Not That Bad by ed. Roxane Gay
In an anthology of sexual assault stories, victims and perpetrators come from all walks of life, from all walks of life, all walks of life, all walks of life, all walks of life, all walks of life, all walks of life, all walks of life, all walks of life, all walks of life, all walks of life, all walks Although the book is intensely intimate and difficult to read, Gay’s editing care ensures that the stories are precisely aligned with the title. We’ve all heard the phrase “things might be worse,” but in truth, all sexual assault experiences are horrible, and there’s no point in putting them on a scale when so few people ever receive justice. a
THE LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE by Jessica Knoll (2015)
Ani FaNelli’s life appears to be ideal. She has a successful boyfriend and writes a sex column for a women’s magazine. However, Ani is concerned that revealing the facts of a tragic encounter she had while attending a prominent private school may cause her carefully crafted existence to crumble. Knoll’s best-selling novel has been optioned for film by Reese Witherspoon.
AN UNTAMED STATE by Roxane Gay (2014)
Mireille Duval Jameson, the daughter of a wealthy Haitian construction entrepreneur, is kidnapped in Port-au-Prince in Gay’s debut novel. Her husband, a white American, and other passers-by are present as she is kidnapped in broad daylight. Her father refuses to pay the ransom, and she is held captive for 13 days by a gang of thugs, who subject her to terrible sexual torture. Mireille tries to put herself back together after her “death” once she is released. The novel was described as “striking” by one of our reviewers.
HIS FAVORITES by Kate Walbert (2018)
Three adolescent females take for a joy ride in a stolen golf cart one drunken night, and one of them dies instantly when the buggy crashes. Jo, the driver, flees to boarding school after the accident, where she captures the attention of a prominent English teacher. Following that, an adult Jo remembers a sequence of traumatic occurrences, as well as the agony of seeking aid and not being believed. “‘His Favorites’ isn’t just a simple narrative of trauma and survival,” according to our reviewer, “but something more challenging, and potentially more valuable — a reckoning not just with the reality of abuse, but with the pernicious ways it can shape and inform everything, even the stories you tell yourself.”
HISTORY OF VIOLENCE by Édouard Louis (2018)
The author’s real-life experience of being raped, threatened with a pistol, and nearly strangled by a man he met on Christmas Eve in 2012 inspired this autobiographical story. Mr. Louis positions himself “as an eavesdropper listening in behind a door on a talk about the attack between his sister and her husband,” straddling the line between memoir and fiction.