KNOW MY NAME by Chanel Miller

From the Jacket

She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter.  Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford’s campus.  Her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed, where it instantly went viral–viewed by eleven million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case.  Thousands wrote to say that she had given them the courage to share their own experiences of assault for the first time.

Now she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words.  It was the perfect case, in many ways–there were eyewitnesses, Turner ran away, physical evidence was immediately secured.  But her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios.  Her story illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicts a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shines with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.

My Thoughts

Much like my last read, SHE SAID by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, Chanel Miller’s KNOW MY NAME is an emotionally powerful Me Too story.  I hate to say stories like these are “trending” now (because it takes away from the seriousness of the subject), but they’ve definitely been growing in popularity, which is fitting given our current social climate.  After loving SHE SAID, I wanted to read more like it, so I turned to Ronan Farrow’s CATCH AND KILL, another investigative journalism story, and Miller’s KNOW MY NAME.  As a memoir, KNOW MY NAME is obviously the most personal, and, for me, the most powerful too.

“Never fight to injure, fight to uplift.  Fight because you know that in this life, you deserve safety, joy, and freedom.  Fight because it is your life.  Not anyone else’s.”

Miller is an immensely talented writer.  In a sense, I feel like I cannot critique her book given its personal nature and the strength it must’ve taken her to write, so I’m relieved that I have zero complaints about any of Miller’s narrative choices.  Her writing feels so raw and honest, like she is truly opening up to her readers.  Pair her honesty with her self-awareness and the gut-wrenching details of her story, and I couldn’t pull myself away.

“When a woman is assaulted, one of the first questions people ask is, Did you say no?  This question assumes that the answer was always yes, and that it is her job to revoke the agreement.  To defuse the bomb she was given.  But why are they allowed to touch us until we physically fight them off?  Why is the door open until we have to slam it shut?”

KNOW MY NAME is an absolute treasure.  Thank you Chanel for telling your story and for sharing your wisdom, bravery, and strength.

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