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I mentioned this book — “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller — in my list of AAPI authors last week. I read it in one day, and am so glad I finally read it.
But, before I jump into the book, I want to clarify something that’s been on my mind. When I shared the AAPI list of books, I said that reading books from diverse authors wasn’t going to solve many of these bigger problems we have in America, such as institutional racism and white supremacy.
However, I wanted to share the book list because reading books from diverse authors has really helped me understand and learn more about other cultures. But over the weekend, I saw several sentiments from AAPI authors, along with Black authors, that it pains them that innocent people have to die for white people to buy their books or support their businesses.
It’s important for white people to listen to their voices and understand where they’re coming from, so I just want to reiterate that I don’t want anyone’s efforts to stop when they put down a book. It’s important we put our education and our empathy into action — usually by voting.
Having said that, let’s jump into this book because I have lots to share on it!
Please note that the following may contain triggers related to sexual assault and/or rape.
“Know My Name” is Chanel Miller’s account of being sexually assaulted by Brock Turner, who was often praised in the media as being a Stanford swimmer. This case was all over the news, but Chanel Miller’s name was kept out of it to protect her privacy.
This book is the first time she shared her name and her side of the story with the world.
I don’t know if I would have picked up this book on my own, but Chanel did interviews on some shows I watch: “The Daily Show” and Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” and what she shared was so brave. So, I added this to my reserve list at the library.
Chanel shares a bit about her childhood and growing up, but the bulk of the book is her account of what happened that night (what she can remember). I appreciated her raw honesty about waking up in the hospital and getting a “rape kit” completed. Throughout the entire book, she shares the perspective that we don’t often get: a victim’s account of ALL the steps you have to take in order to press charges against someone.
She shares details about going to court, the individual hearings, writing her victim’s impact statement, and her recovery after the legal battle ended.
I marked so many things in the book that I’ll share here:
Memorable Quotes From ‘Know My Name’
- Every time I thought of that morning, another jar was born. Now jars filled every inch of my mind. I had nowhere to put them. They cluttered the stairwells, could not be contained in cabinets. I was full of these sealed jars, no room to sit or walk or breathe.
- So on that January morning in 2015, reading the story of the Stanford assault on the news was like being read a letter, Sorry to inform you, impersonal and flat, but it was not about a death on the tracks, it was about a sad and strange rape on a local campus, a body found stripped and disheveled. This time, it was my name.
- TURNER does not know the identity of VICTIM. He never got her name and was not able to really describe her. He stated that he probably would not be able to recognize victim if he saw her again. In his mind, I didn’t have a face or a name. But the article states we had met at a party, as if the attraction had been mutual, involved cordial chatting.
- In rape cases it’s strange to me when people say, Well why didn’t you fight him? If you woke up to a robber in your home, saw him taking your stuff, people wouldn’t ask, Well why didn’t you fight him? Why didn’t you tell him no? He’s already violating an unspoken rule, why would he suddenly decide to adhere to reason? What would give you reason to think he’d stop if you told him to? And in this case, with my being unconscious, why are there still so many questions?
- I began showing up to work later and later, sometimes coming in at noon with no explanation. How did other victims manage this back-and-forth between worlds, the rotation of selves? You can’t fawn over your coworker’s photos of Maui by morning, slip away to battle your rapist by noon. It required two entirely different modes of being; different worries, rules, bosses, emotions. If this continued, I wouldn’t be able to go and come back, but I was not ready to quit my job and give up my life yet. I prayed he would give up first.
- No. This single syllable on my tongue felt like nourishment, tasted like something new. I wanted the two little letters to slip inside his ears like seeds, to settle inside his gut, to expand, pushing on his lungs, his heart, suffocating him from the inside out, until he was overcome, bursting out of his buttoned shirt.
- I do not attribute surviving to willpower or optimism because none of this I had. It would take weeks to recover, depression would take over. But that October, the Swedes had introduced me to this new voice inside me. I had to teach myself to talk like them. To one day face my attacker and say, What the fuck are you doing.
- They tell you that if you’re assaulted, there’s a kingdom, a courthouse, high up on a mountain where justice can be found. Most victims are turned away at the base of the mountain, told they don’t have enough evidence to make the journey. Some victims sacrifice everything to make the climb, but are slain along the way, the burden of proof impossibly high.
- In his testimony, I heard the familiar expectation that a victim be flawless, in order to be worthy of life. The audacity to smoke marijuana provided sufficient reason to die. The defense calling me a party animal meant I, too, deserved to be raped.
- When society questions a victim’s reluctance to report, I will be here to remind you that you ask us to sacrifice our sanity to fight outdated structures that were designed to keep up down. Victims do not have the time for this. Victims are also students, teachers, parents, who can’t give up work or education. The average adult can barely find time to renew their license at the DMV. It is not reasonable to casually demand that victims put aside their lives to spend more time pursuing something they never asked for in the first place. This is not about the victim’s lack of effort. This is about society’s failure to have systems in place in which victims feel there’s a probable chance of achieving safety, justice, and restoration rather than being traumatized, publicly shamed, psychologically tormented, and verbally mauled. The real question we need to be asking is not, Why didn’t she report, the question is, Why would you?
- For years, the crime of sexual assault depended on our silence. The fear of knowing what happened if we spoke. Society gave us one thousand reasons; don’t speak if you lack evidence, if it happened too long ago, if you were drunk, if the man if powerful, if you’ll face blowback, if it threatens your safety. Ford broke all the rules. She had none of the requirements society tells us we need before we dare open our mouths. She had every reason to stay hidden, but stepped straight into the most public, volatile, combative environment imaginable, because she possessed the single thing she needed, the truth. The barricades that held us down will not work anymore. And when silence and shame are gone, there will be nothing to stop us. We will not stand by as our mouths are covered, bodies entered. We will speak, we will speak, we will speak.
Book Club Questions for ‘Know My Name’
Just a note that there are book club questions in the back of the book… which I irresponsibly didn’t take note of, so there may be unintentional duplicates!
I have general book club question printables in my Etsy Shop if you’re looking for additional questions that will work for any book, but here are some specifics:
- Had you heard of, or followed, Chanel’s case before reading this book? If so, did your perspective on it change after reading it?
- Are you familiar with the sexual assault and rape laws in your area? If so, what would you change about them to better stand with victims? What needs to be done to change them?
- What did you think of Stanford’s reaction to the case? In a perfect world, what do you think they should have done?
- In what ways do you think this book can benefit the greater good?
- Who would you recommend read this book?
There were, of course, parts of this book that were difficult to read. But, I could relate in so many ways to Chanel’s story and it was comforting to know that I’m not alone, and every victim deals with trauma in their own way.
I cannot speak for every victim and say, “Read this!” Because I know it may just be too much. But I would suggest reading it if you know someone who’s been sexually assaulted, or if you’ve ever questioned why a victim wouldn’t press charges or go public sooner.
I actually read several books last week, so my end-of-the-month YouTube video is going to be packed with goodies 🙂 I hope you all have a great week!
For more book recommendations, be sure to subscribe to the blog (look to the right) and follow me on Goodreads @thebitterlemon – where I share more of my book picks. Also, check out my printable bookmarks and Book Club Journal Pages in my Etsy Shop.