Anyone reviewing a memoir that deals in extremely graphic terms with the act and aftermath of sexual assault or rape risks the appearance of virtue signalling. To avoid treading that path, I will keep this review relatively short, and I will not be going into details of the attack on Ms. Miller. If you do not want to read the rest of the review, suffice to say that I wholeheartedly recommend this book, with the caveat that it is difficult and painful reading.
Chanel Miller’s powerful new memoir, <i>Know My Name</i>, is an extremely demanding book. I don’t mean demanding in the sense of it being a challenge to read, although the reading is extremely challenging due to the subject matter; I don’t mean demanding in the sense of the book being badly written – it is poetic, nearly lyrical at times; no, I mean challenging in the sense that Miller is challenging each and every one of us to reassess our own preconceptions, our own limits of what is and is not acceptable behavior, as we read through her experiences – not just from that January night at Stanford University four years ago, but the ensuing fallout that affects her to this day.
Miller, who was only known as Emily Doe until the release of this memoir, became famous initially because of the powerful twelve-page victim’s impact statement she read at her rapist’s sentencing. You can read her complete statement at Buzzfeed. As she tells us in the book, writing became a form of catharsis and self-rediscovery, and <i>Know My Name</i> is the result.
While I’m not going to go into detail about what is in the book generally speaking, I will make one note about the affect it is having already since its launch in September. In the later chapters, Miller writes about the difficulties she has faced with Stanford University. Among them was their refusal to use words she had chosen to appear on a plaque in a garden dedicated to her and to other victims of sexual assault and rape. Since the book came out, Stanford, under pressure from students and faculty, has done an about face. They are going to honor Miller’s request. The words that will appear on the plaque: “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”
Steve’s Rating: (9 / 10)
A powerful statement by a voice that needs to be heard. Chanel Miller’s heart shines through on every page.
Date: September 24, 2019
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