I feel like a bad person for not totally loving this book. It was just hard to get through and some of the stories didn’t really move me one way or the other. I ended up just feeling sad while reading and finally finishing this book off with some wine. I think also that looking at rape culture is a huge undertaking, and so the stories could have flowed a bit better between them to the next story. Also I wish that things were not left vague in a few stories. A few times I went wait what happened when we had someone recounting their story.
Fragments by Aubrey Hirsch (4 stars)-the story begins when she is being harassed for taking birth control by her supposed friend James. Apparently birth control equals putting out a certain signal (blech). Hirsch begins telling stories about her time in college and the one disturbing story is about how after a night of drinking too much she woke up in a friend’s room (where he put her to keep her safe) and took out her contacts while she was unconscious. I full body shuddered.
Slaughterhouse Island by Jill Christman (5 stars)-Christman tells what sounds like a typical college story (which makes me sad). A young girl meets a guy she feels meh towards, but still keeps hanging out with and one night things get ugly and he rapes her. She sees him again because part of you hopes for a different outcome. Nope, the outcome the second time is him attempting to rape her. At this point I put the book down and went to the gym to work out.
& The Truth Is, I Have No Story by Claire Schwartz (2 stars)-This one was so weird after reading Slaughterhouse Island. We have Schwartz telling her about everything “after” which I assumed to be her rape. I just found the whole essay to be more spoken poetry and it just jumped around a lot. Which I imagine was done to show how confused and separate a person feels after being raped.
The Luckiest MILF in Brooklyn by Lynn Melnick (1 star)-I loathe the word MILF and this story was about catcall culture which is still a form of rape culture. I don’t know. This one seemed off to me in a way. Melnick tells how she started giving blowjobs for attention and was led to believe that her body was her only thing to offer the world. At the end of the essay I don’t know if she doesn’t get that is not all she has to offer.
Spectator by Brandon Taylor (3 stars)-this was hard to read. Recounting memories of their rapist (who was also their uncle). The story flits around a bit though with Taylor remembering their mother who also died and seems to segue into how Taylor is judgey towards his brother who is judgey towards them.
The Sun by Emma Smith-Stevens (5 stars)-Stevens recounts tales of being objectified at an early age (13) by older men her whole life. And then the story gets even scarier if possible when she tells how she got invited to a party with 5 other teen boys (she was the only girl) while they watched porn. She chose one in order to not be raped by all and was called “whore” and “slut” at school. I think at this point I took another break from the book.
Sixty-Three Days by AJ McKenna (3.5 stars)-I was confused by the timeline in this one which took me out of the story. I felt for McKenna and loved the essay overall. I just couldn’t understand when the person this essay was written for was in McKenna’s life and also the other people who were named after.
Only the Lonely by Lisa Mecham (2 stars)-This was confusing. A woman at a Yankee swap gets a vibrator and somehow it signifies something about her marriage. I don’t know. I was just left confused.
What I Told Myself by Vanessa Martir (4.5 stars)-A hard story to read. Martir ties in her mother’s own history of rape with her history of rape which happened when she was 6 years old. I just hated how everyone kept telling her that what happened to her wasn’t as bad as what happened to her mother. I just died a little inside while reading this essay.
Stasis by Ally Sheedy (5 stars)-Yup that Ally Sheedy. Sheedy talks about being a young actress in Hollywood and being told she was “fat.” I grew up watching Sheedy in films, I am gobsmacked that a director would even think this. She recounts discussions with other young actresses who got typecast and told to lose weight, be more sexy, or told they were not seen as sexually desirable.
The Ways We Are Taught to Be a Girl by xTx (5 stars)-a girl’s friend lures her (she won’t say it, I will) to be forced to be alone with her and her brothers and how they kissed their sister with their tongues and told her to do it too. And the story is the first lesson on how to be a girl. How to keep things inside, to not tell everything horrible thing that happens to you because you don’t want to be blamed (you still will be blamed by some though). There are five more lessons xTx imparts.
Floccinaucinihilipilification by So Mayer (5 stars)-How you survive being raped. Mayer’s rapist was her father.
Rape was where my rebellion started. His small sense that–small as I was, an infant–I needed to be controlled was my hint that I had power that had to be curtailed.
The Life Ruiner by Nora Salem (3 stars)-Salem recounting being raped when she was 8 by a 18 year old boy who lived with her and her family. Salem’s family was doing with the death of her brother and she didn’t want to break her family apart by telling them what was done to her. This one didn’t grab me as much as the story before it which is why I gave it 3 stars. I do think it would have worked better if this one was up front and the stronger stories anchored the ending.
All the Angry Women by Lyz Lenz (3 stars)-Lenz discussing what I think is a rape survivor’s group. She dances around it. I thought some of the comparisons she made about how women are not allowed to be angry but men in the NFL who are abusers are let back in was an off comparison. Just state flat out women are not allowed to be angry. Shoot, I am a black woman and can’t even show a grimace without being told I am being an angry black woman. It’s been that way my whole life.
Good Girls by Amy Jo Burns (4 stars)-
The truth no one told you is that, in order for a good girl to survive, she make some things disappear. You know because you used to be one of the good girls; you used to know how to forget.
Utmost Resistance by V.L. Seek (2.5 stars)-there are a lot of foonotes and quotes in this. I think Seek was trying to show this as a case of law, but it didn’t work for me.
Bodies Against Borders by Michelle Chen (3 stars)-This reads as a scientific article more than an essay. Chen goes into violence against women worldwide and it definitely made me sad.
What We Didn’t Say by Liz Rosema (5 stars)-This was in comic strip form and I really loved it. This was my favorite essay in this collection.
I Said Yes by Anthony Frame (5 stars)-Terrible story (all of them are honestly) of a man recounting when he was raped by his friend’s father. I think the part that will grab at you is that his wife realizes he was raped when she sat and watched their wedding video which showed the change in his eyes after he got older. Then Frame recounts how he was raped and then the toxic masculinity he experienced as he got older in school and college.
Knowing Better by Samhita Mukhopadhyay (2.5 stars)-I have never heard of Mukhopadhyay who apparently wrote a book about love and dating. This one was pretty short so it didn’t stay with me when I finished it.
Not That Loud by Miriam Zoila Perez (2 stars)-I thought this one was pretty lackluster too after reading Knowing Better.
Why I Stopped by Zoe Medeiros (4 stars)-Why a rape survivor finally stopped telling people why she was raped.
Picture Perfect by Sharisse Tracey (5 stars)- A woman relaying how her black family wanted to be perfect, but ignored what Tracey’s father was doing to her. Starting off from a photo shoot that becomes sexualized to physical rape later is hard to read. The whole story is pretty heart wrenching. Tracey tells her mother, who does believe her, but her father stays. Also there is some BS about a counselor coworker of her father’s who tells her mother that if he leaves it will damage the family. I hope that counselor is somewhere sitting on sharp tack. This is in my opinion, one of the second strongest stories in this collection.
To Get Out from Under it by Stacey May Fowles (5 stars)-Recounting the many times she said no while raped. Fowles does a good job of showcasing the many sides to being raped. Telling yourself that what happened wasn’t that bad. Then Fowles recounts the many questions that are asked.
Did you know him? Did you invite him in? Did you go willingly? Did he hurt you? Did he have a weapon? Did he force you? Did you wear something that provoked him? Did you want to have sex with him? Did you cook him dinner beforehand? Did you put on makeup? Did you tell him you liked him? Did you tell him you loved him? Do you regret anything you did that night?
How bad was it really?
Reaping What Rape Culture Sows by Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes (5 stars)-Weirdly Stokes telling us when she first was told about rape was when I also heard about it too. Watching Little House on the Prairie and seeing the Sylvia episodes. And then the sadness when Stokes takes her father’s definition of rape and doesn’t understand that it’s not the only way to assault and harm a woman. Stokes blames herself after she is raped anyway because she had been drinking and hurt her left making herself vulnerable. The whole essay just like the two preceding it was very strong.
Invisible Light Waves by Meredith Talusan (3.5 stars)-pretty short and I honestly didn’t feel as engrossed in this one as I should have.
Getting Home by Nicole Boyce (3 stars)-This jumps around and doesn’t really land in the end for me.
Why I Didn’t Say No by Elissa Bassist (3.5 stars)-Bassist recounting the many ways in which she didn’t say no while she was raped. I think the main reason why I didn’t rate this one higher was because it was kind of a stream of consciousness thing that didn’t work for me.