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11 November 2019

Review: Know My Name

Know My Name Know My Name by Chanel Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Slight spoiler of first 100 pages....beware!

You think you know what happened when two Swedish students found Brock Turner raping a woman next to a dumpster. But you have no idea. Maybe if you lived in the Stanford area you might know more. But I suspect that through gossip you might know even less than I do here in Chicago. That is why the courage that Chanel Miller displays in her memoir, Know My Name, is monumental.

The first three chapters are heart-wrenching and required me to put the book down many times. Chanel wastes no time getting right to why she wrote the book. Why we need to know her name. The night of the rape. The evening where she spent with her family and later her mom dropped Chanel and her sister off at a party. The party. Then the morning after as she awakens in the hospital with zero memory of what happened.

AND NO ONE FUCKING TELLS HER.

Seriously. Chanel painstakingly takes us back to that morning when she finds pine needles in her hair, wonders why she has no underwear, can’t find her phone, and then undergoes a rape test examination. Photo after photo. Test after test. Police interview after interview and no one tells her she was assaulted.

To say I was furious is an understatement. As you will likely be.

I truly believe that this memoir will be assigned in class, passed on from friend to friend, and a divider book - our lives before and after we read the tale of Chanel Miller. It is not a classic because we need to read about her resilience. It will be a classic because we need to drown in her rage.

When I requested a review copy all I thought was, “I need to know how she is feeling.” Pissed the fuck off is what she is feeling.

Her story is one of having the anger take over her life. There is a scene where she loses control and shatters her phone by slamming it on the table. Then she is forced to use it while in a baggie. That scene is palpable. You may even flashback to a moment where anger has taken control of your life, even for a moment.

But what she does with her anger is survive. She grounds herself through art. I honestly feel the bravest thing she’s did was to spend the summer away from everyone and everything she knows to study art. I am usually grouchy about the privilege it takes to jet off somewhere to heal as most people do not have that luxury. But the way it comes about, the learning she gets out of it...well...it is privileged, I also see the beauty and bravery in it.

Everyone who takes a basic women's studies class or reads the news knows that few rape survivors find themselves in court against their attacker. There are Many reasons for this including the trauma of pressing charges.

We get to experience this trauma with Chanel. And IMO the most trauma came from the slow nature of the court system. Waiting. Preparing to testify one day then being told in 3 more months or in an hour versus tomorrow.

Know My Name is an immediate classic. It may take you awhile to get through it as you may need to take breaks. Or you may devour it in one sitting as your fury fuels your need to keep reading. This is a book I want everyone to read because I need to discuss it in person. So please, get yourself a copy and let’s grab coffee or a cocktail.

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