All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Know My Name by Chanel Miller

on March 12, 2020

Know My Name
Chanel Miller
Viking
2019, 368p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The riveting, powerful memoir of the woman whose statement to Brock Turner gave voice to millions of survivors.

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.

Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing. It also introduces readers to an extraordinary writer, one whose words have already changed our world. Entwining pain, resilience, and humor, this memoir will stand as a modern classic.

Like a lot of people, I remember feeling outrage at the Brock Turner case. I remember reading then-known-as Emily Doe’s victim impact statement, which was published in its entirety on Buzzfeed and then went viral online, people sharing it over and over and over again. For a long time, the narrative in that story was about Brock Turner. How much of a promising swimmer he was. How he didn’t deserve to have his life ruined because of this one act. How his victim had been drinking so much she blacked out and how could we really know what had happened if she was unconscious? She doesn’t even remember it. She was reduced to “intoxicated, unconscious woman” whereas with Brock, it was all about his potential, what he might have been, what he might have become.

Now, Chanel Miller is naming herself, taking back some of the control in this story and giving her side. This is one of the most powerful books I think I’ve ever read. In it, Chanel Miller outlines exactly what she remembers from that night and how she felt waking up on a hospital gurney, only to be told that she might have been assaulted, they ‘weren’t sure’. How she thought they had the wrong person, that it couldn’t be her and then the slow realisation as other people informed her what had happened to her. Then there’s her decision to press charges and that experience, the horror of the trial and cross examination. It dives into the commonality of victim blaming in sexual assault cases as well as the strain everything had on her, her sister, their family and also her relationship with her boyfriend Lucas.

This is an eloquent, honest, raw memoir as well as a critique of both society’s views on sexual assault and also the justice system responsible for adjudicating over such crimes. Sexual assault cases are notoriously difficult to get to trial and even harder to get a guilty verdict because so often, it’s one person’s word against another. But in Chanel’s case, she actually had witnesses – two Swedish men riding their bikes who spotted her on the ground, thought ‘something isn’t right here’ and chased down her assailant, Brock Turner, when he ran at seeing them. They caught him and held him, gained the attention of others nearby who called the police. Despite this, the ways in which the narrative was twisted by the defense, how they tried to reframe it with Brock, this promising, talented athlete as the victim, were utterly astounding. And yeah, I get it. It’s innocent until proven guilty. But the ways in which women are blamed for their own sexual assaults are just mind boggling to grasp. Every single time it’s the same thing – what was she wearing? Why was she out at night? Was she dancing with him? Was she alone? Did she accept a drink from him? He may have expected that she’d come back to his apartment/go somewhere/do something with him.

None of that matters. None of it. It’s frustrating that in 2020, it’s still the way things are framed. A lot of her cross examination revolved around her drinking – how much she had drunk, how often she drank, had she ever blacked out, was it possible that she had given consent and was now regretting it? Then it was suggested that she was interested in hooking up, after all Brock was a promising athlete – surely he had his pick of women keen to show him affection, completely ignoring an established narrative that he’d already harassed other girls at the party. The facts by now, are well known. Brock Turner’s story of it being a consensual, enjoyable hook up that he ran from in fear from the Swedes because he thought they were going to hurt him (whereby he leaves this woman that he’d hooked up with so consensually, in a vulnerable state, alone with two guys he possibly thought were predators) is understood to be false and instead he preyed on a young woman in a vulnerable state, who was so drunk she blacked out and could not consent and he abused her and would’ve kept abusing her if not for the interruption by the Swedes.

Not going to lie, this is a difficult book to read and it caused me to have extreme feelings of anxiety for her (even though I know the result, the court scenes were so hard to read) as well as a sort of impotent fury at what she experienced. She mentions reading the comments on news stories on the case which….I don’t know how she kept doing it. I even find these days I can’t read the comments on pretty much any story, so inflammatory and troll-like are most of them. People who exist merely to post contentious things just to provoke arguments, or who are all too ready to point fingers of blame against people in situations like this, comments that indicate her drunkenness is reason and/or cause of her assault and a suggestion that she perhaps deserves it.

We have all done things in our lives (or most of us) that thereby for the grace of whatever you believe in, could’ve turned out horrifically bad. For many people, it did turn out horrifically bad. But the thing is, women should be able to wear what they like without inciting comments and/or attention, they should be able to go out and drink if they want, have fun and not risk waking up in hospital and learning they’ve been sexually assaulted behind a dumpster, they should be able to walk home at any time of the day or night without fear. Instead of teaching women to moderate their dress/behaviour/activities, teach men to respect personal boundaries, to leave women alone, to learn the signals, to not assault and/or rape them. And yes, #notallmen etc, etc. But any men doing this is too many men.

So much is focused on what Turner will lose – his scholarship, the chance to get a degree at Stanford, etc. but I felt a lot of the time what got overlooked was what Chanel Miller lost, and this is what her story attempts to highlight. This was a traumatic experience that lasted years for her and continues on well after the trial, sentencing and Brock’s time served is well over. He only got six months, served three. The case caused significant outrage and resulted in at least one law being changed as well as the recusal of the judge by a horrified Californian population. The justice system as a whole, needs overhauling when it comes to sexual assault cases, the way that they are framed, the way that people look at them. When I was at university some twenty years ago, they gave us something that we called the sexual harassment cube. I think I’ve mentioned it here before. It was a cube made up of smaller cubes that you could manipulate to say different things – I’m drunk means no. I have a boyfriend means no. I don’t want to means no. I’m asleep means no. I’m unconscious means no. I’m unsure means no. Silence means no. BASICALLY EVERYTHING THAT IS NOT YES MEANS NO. I felt then that it was somewhat sad that they had to give those out, to make such a point. But it seems as thought the point still needs to be made. Frequently.

Chanel Miller writes incredibly well, with eloquence and in such a vivid way that gives you an insight into the process and her emotional state throughout. She is passionate about not being ‘just a victim’ but also being Chanel, a woman who has a before and an after. I experienced such a range of emotions reading this – at times I wanted to cry, at other times to rage but sometimes I was so proud of her I could burst. And that’s weird right? I don’t even know her. But the bravery of her sharing her story, laying herself bare for the world to see despite what people had said and would say….for her tireless pursuit of justice and ability to keep going. This is utterly remarkable.

Also? #betheSwedes

10/10

Book #39 of 2020

I’m counting this towards my participation in the Reading Women Challenge, hosted by the Reading Women Podcast. 100% this has to be prompt #12 – About a woman who inspires you. Chanel Miller is an inspiration for us all. It’s book 7 of 26 for this challenge.

Love a book that can pull double duty and this is my second this week! I’m also counting this in my participation of Shelleyrae from Book’d Out’s 2020 NonFiction Reader Challenge!

1. Memoir

2. Disaster Event

3. Social Science

4. Related to an Occupation

5. History

6. Feminism

7. Psychology

8. Medical Issue

9. Nature

10. True Crime

11. Science

12. Published in 2020

I’m ticking off the category Feminism. It’s the fifth book I’ve completed for this challenge – I originally set myself a task to read 6 for this because I honestly wasn’t sure how much non-fiction I’d be reading, even though I have been wanting to add more. It’s only March and so far I’m almost halfway through completing all of these topics….so I should be able to tick every single one off at least once in 2020!


4 responses to “Review: Know My Name by Chanel Miller

  1. Marg says:

    I’m not sure I could read this

    • Yeah I found it quite difficult in places – tbh mostly around the stuff regarding comments people made about the case (trolls) and the way the defense and family of the perpetrator were.

  2. curlygeek04 says:

    This was such a powerful book. Thanks for the thoughtful review – I felt much the same way! I hope everyone reads this book.

    • Thank you – it’s incredible, isn’t it? I hope everyone reads it too, it’s such a powerful story and I hope it makes some people think about the way they react to stories they hear and the way victims are treated and talked about.

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