I have never had such a hard time getting through a book that I liked. “Liked” actually feels like the wrong word here. How can I say I liked something that made me angry and frustrated almost 100% of the way through, and which filled me with dread every time I tried to convince myself to pick it back up again? Perhaps “appreciated”? Understand is necessary? See its importance? But not liked.
I didn’t expect this reaction, even though rape is a tough subject to read about under the best circumstances, because I’ve never really read about it the way it’s presented in this book: unrelentingly, and chapter after chapter. Different perspectives on the same horrible thing; variations on a theme. And it was exhausting. Even when reading the words of survivors in the past, it’s always been bearable because it was one essay, one story, maybe two. Or it was an entire book told in the third person, an objective third party. This book was close and intimate and uncomfortable.
The only essay I don’t think worked, at least in the context of the collection, was the one about sexual assault and refugees. It was a highly impersonal, verging on academic, essay. Despite how informative and well written it was, all the rest of the stories were in the first person, and featured the voices of survivors. It just felt out of place.
So, anyway, pick this up if you think you have the stomach for it, but it will not make you feel good after reading it. The purpose of the collection is to show the fallacy of “not that bad”, the lie behind the idea that if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger, that someone else has suffered more, so your suffering doesn’t mean anything. It succeeds, but it will piss you off make you feel helpless while doing so. Just to warn you.
Read Harder Challenge 2018: An essay anthology
A fun postscript. This is what Goodreads thought it would be a good idea to recommend to me because I read this book: