Posts Tagged ‘Laurie Halse Anderson’

Once again we highlight books that in some fashion address sexual assault as part National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. We promise each of these books is a great book in its own right; we just unite them here because they each in some way help us think about how to prevent violence in both words and deeds. They also provide an excuse to once again highlight the important work of WISE — our local organization dedicated to ending gender-based violence through survivor-centered advocacy, prevention, education, and mobilization for social change. In this age of #metoo, we still believe in the power of books to provide greater understanding of sexual assault, and its costs for all of us.


FC9780062362599.jpgHunger by Roxane Gay (2017) – I don’t think I have ever read such a well-written, honest, and brutal account of sexual assault and its aftermath. This sounds like a horrific reason to pick up a book; and, it is horrid to think that the author endured a brutal and life-altering assault at age 12. Her analysis of her life after assault, as a morbidly obese woman in a society that abhors fat people, is brutal and punctuated with self-loathing. That said, her story and Ms. Gay’s candid insight offer much more than horror; this memoir is also filled with hope, self love, professional accomplishments, friendships, mistakes, social commentary, and always, always her body and her relationship with it. If you wish to understand how sexual assault affects people long after the crime, Ms. Gay will help. If you have ever tried to explain your relationship with your own body, Ms. Gay will help. If you have never understood this relationship, Ms. Gay will help. If you want to better understand how people who are obese often feel, Ms. Gay offers this gift to you. If you have a complicated relationship with your body, Ms. Gay shows you are not alone. If you just want to spend some time with a talented writer of insight, Ms. Gay’s Hunger is your chance. (Previously reviewed in We’re Back, with Two Great Books from Our “Gone Reading Break“.)  ~Lisa Christie

FC9781616205041-1.jpgYoung Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (2017) – For those of us who lived through the Bill Clinton sexual relations intern scandal, this book will seem familiar. What might not seem so familiar is the humor and candor about society’s standards contained in this “light” novel about how decisions we make when we are young have implications. (Also reviewed during our recent Pages in the Pub.) ~Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9780062684929.jpgUnbelievable by Katy Tur (2017) – An up front and personal account of the 2016 presidential race from the perspective of a MSNBC and MBC reporter who followed Trump from the time when everyone thought his candidacy was a long shot all the way through his election.  Why do we include it here?  Because part of this book deals with Candidate Trump’s treatment of women including an unwanted, unexpected, and unprofessional kiss of Ms. Tur by Mr. Trump. As Jill Abramson said in a New York Times book review – “Compelling… this book couldn’t be more timely.”  (First reviewed on LAST Minute Holiday Gift Ideas.) ~Lisa Christie

FC9780312674397.jpgSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson (2001) – What happens when a high school student attends a party and is raped by an upperclassman, someone she has to see every day at school afterwards? Ms. Anderson provided one answer to this question long before the #metoo movement in this page-turning book for young adults.  Years after reading this award-winning young adult novel, we still remember being completely taken by the narrator, Melinda, and her story. This thought-provoking YA novel bursts open many of the hypocritical aspects of high school and illustrates the importance of learning to speak up for oneself (and we would argue to speak up for those who can not speak for themselves), while opening a window into the horrors of rape. Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature. (First reviewed in another WISE post years ago.) ~Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9780307949486.jpgGirl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (2005) – Perhaps the ultimate revenge novel, this thriller follows a woman and her ways of coping with unspeakable childhood trauma. It is an international bestseller, twice a movie, and spawned the translation into many languages of crime stories by many, many Scandinavian authors. (First reviewed in Summer’s Sneaky Pleasures Scandinavian Thrillers.) ~Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9781449486792-1.jpgthe sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur (2017) – Somehow we missed her first best-selling book, but in a time where the news is full of people behaving horribly and many of us feeling some angst and hopelessness, Ms. Kaur’s honest poems about heart-break, loss, rape, love, relationships, and hope are just what we needed. “To hate is an easy lazy thing but to love takes strength everyone has but not all are willing to practice” seems a perfect thought for today’s news. And, “a lot of times we are angry at other people for not doing what we should have done for ourselves” hit home. ~Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie


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Our local shelter for abused women  – WISE (Women’s Information Service) – recently designed an educational program involving the use of fiction and non-fiction books in discussion groups sponsored by local libraries and bookstores. It is their hope that these specially selected titles will serve as a platform for safe discussions, and will  support their mission of reducing the number of sexual assaults in our community. This groundbreaking  program launches today, the first day of Sexual Violence Awareness Month, and specific outcomes remain unknown.  We are certain, however, that good literature can lead to very positive outcomes; so we at The Book Jam are hopeful.

Below are some of the books being used in this important program that we can recommend as excellent reading.

And, we truly hope that this program leads to action and the  reduction in the number of crimes against women.

 Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (2006). Years after reading this award-winning young adult novel, I still remember reading it and being completely taken by the narrator, Melinda, and her story.  The novel opens in autumn with Melinda in High School and outcast because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the police.  Nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. In turn, she stops talking altogether.  An art project allows her to finally able to face what really happened at that party: she was raped. And unfortunately, the rapist attends her high school.  As the year progresses, she has another violent encounter with him.  In this moving novel, this heroine bursts open many of the hypocritical aspects of high school.  In doing so, Melinda illustrates the importance of learning to speak up for oneself (and I would argue to speak up for those who can not speak for themselves), and opens a window into the horrors of rape. Speak is a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature. ~ Lisa Christie

Lucky: A Memoir by Alice Sebold (2002). In this memoir, which we read years ago but remember for its honesty and extreme candor, Ms. Sebold shows how her life was utterly transformed when, as a college freshman, she was brutally raped and beaten in a park near her campus. Through her prose, she shows her profound struggles for understanding, how her friends and family can’t quite help — even though they desperately try and truly want to do something useful, and finally how she “recovers”.  She also manages to help the police and prosecutors in her rapist’s arrest and conviction along the way. With this book, Ms. Sebold provides a strong voice for trauma victims (even if she herself is only one individual case) and ultimately states that,  “You save yourself or you remain unsaved.” ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Other titles suggested by this WISE program, that we have not yet read (and thus can not review), include:

  Product Details

  • Aftermath: Violence and Remaking of a Self by Susan Brison (2003). WISE lists this as a non-fiction academic treatment of assualt.
  • The Lolita Effect by Meenakshi Gigi Durham (2009). WISE describes this non-fiction book as good for skill building for parents and adults invested in youth.
  • Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the rise of raunch culture by Ariel Levy (2006).  WISE says this non-fiction read offers an investigative work on media culture that is appropriate for adults and older teens.
  • Our Guys by Bernard Lefkowitz (1998). Unfortunately, this appears to be out of print, so we can not provide a link to it.  However, your local bookstore or library can track it down for you.  WISE describes this as a non-fiction, investigative work on the secrets of sexual assault that is appropriate for adults and older teens.

If you have questions about WISE or this program, please contact Edith Walsh at 603-448-5922 x118, or edith.walsh@wiseoftheuppervalley.org.

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