Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Publisher: Penguin Books
The incredibly descriptive writing of this memoir of a rape survivor makes the reader feel like we are living these events with the author, Chanel Miller. This book is equal parts brutal, heartbreaking, anger inducing, beautiful, humorous and inspirational. I have been following along with Miller’s case since its unfortunate beginning because I was living in the same area at the time. I, along with most people, was utterly outraged at the light sentence (six months in jail but he only served half that!) her rapist got and while I did sign petitions and voted to remove the Judge from office, there was a lot about this case that I didn’t know until reading this book.
Beyond just vividly detailing everything that Miller went through this book also highlights the horrific way that our society treats victims of sexual assault. We hold them to an impossible standard that not only does no one meet but rape is the only crime where we blame the victim. One thing that I have never understood and Miller highlights repeatedly, is the low standards that society (and some parents) have when it comes to the choices and behavior of boys. They can easily make the choice to not hurt women (or the countless trans men/women who are victimized daily) and instead help them. Which we get to see very clearly in this memoir. On one hand is Brock Turner, her rapist, and on the other hand, we have the two Swedish men who caught Turner in the act of assaulting Miller and stopped him.
I mentioned above that I lived in the same part of the Bay Area as Miller although we lived in different cities. It was surreal seeing so many places that I am intimately familiar with described in this narrative. Palo Alto really came to life with Miller’s impeccable writing and she really showcased the beauty and the ugliness of the city. I was also shocked when she was describing her time at UC Santa Barbara and the horrifying shooting that happened to their campus community. It is hard to believe that one person could live through so much trauma which is what makes Chanel Miller so impressive. She has every reason to just throw in the towel and just float through life but instead she is strong and resilient.
Know My Name is a must read for everyone. Chanel Miller is a warrior who is using her story to carve out a path for survivors that follow her. If you are wanting to know more about America’s rape culture, this is the book for you. If you are wanting to read a memoir from a kick ass female who keeps powering through pain and trauma, this is the book for you. If you are a rape or sexual assault survivor and you are wanting someone who understands perfectly what being a victim feels like, this book is for you. If you are a woman then this book is for you. We are unquestionably treated by society as lesser than our male counterparts (which if you are poc and/or part of the LGBT community you are increasingly treated worse) and Miller has written a call to arms for us to stick together, to believe each other, and to just be there for each other. Whether you are a victim of sexual assault or if you only know all the ways we are made to feel small, than I implore you to read this. Chanel Miller has created a powerful, moving and eloquent portrait of a rape survivor and has used it to bring light to all the women left in the darkness.
“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.”
“The judge had given Brock something that would never be extended to me; empathy. My pain was never more valuable than his potential.”
“… I heard the familiar expectation that a victim be flawless, in order to be worthy of life.”
“Social change is a marathon, not a sprint.”
“Denying darkness does not bring anyone closer to the light.”