Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: Memoir, Poetry
Trigger warnings: Rape, sexual assault, suicidal ideation, drug abuse, PTSD
Read if: you’ve ever been silenced.
Synopsis: Best known for her bestselling fictional novel, Speak, Halse-Anderson tells her own story of survival in moving free-verse poetry. She recounts her childhood, her assault, her pain, and her journey afterward. Much like Speak, this is a story of a woman finding her voice after it had been so forcefully and violently silenced.
The last paragraph on the dust jacket reads:
“This book is for anyone who has ever been lost, ignored, silenced, abused, assaulted, harassed, talked down to, made to feel small, or knows someone who has. It’s for the writers and the readers, the dreamers, the story weavers, poem collectors, song traders, word eaters. It’s for the heartsick and the hope-filled, the furious and the fierce, the creators of call-outs, and anyone with the courage to say #metoo,” whether aloud, online, or only in your own heart.” – Halse-Anderson
This book is deeply personal, exposing all the vulnerabilities, pain, frustrations, losses, and victories of the author. It is the truthfulness with which it is written that makes this such an empowering and essential read.
Overview: 5/5 stars. One of the most powerful books I’ve read.
Non-Spoiler Review: While I had previously read Speak in my freshman year of High School, It wasn’t until I listened to an episode of the SSR podcast on Speak that I decided to revisit the novel and Halse-Anderson’s newly released memoir – and I am so glad I did.
Talking, let alone writing, about your own trauma is hard. Poetry has the ability to capture these intense and abstract emotions whereas prose can be too detailed to accurately represent personal pain. I found myself reflected in Halse-Anderson’s words. This book was made to echo the pain of anyone who has undergone a form of sexual violence or assault, and in that, I thought it was successful. After reading, I not only felt comforted, but empowered.
Halse-Anderson also reflects on the damage caused by her poor sexual education. Not knowing or even thinking about pregnancy or STIs, not having the vocabulary to express her experience, not knowing her rights as a victim, and even after she had learned all of this, not being able to share her knowledge because of taboos. People, specifically educators, refused to acknowledge and share her story because they refused to accept that these events happen – especially within their own schools. This memoir has a sense of emptiness, of trauma, of brokenness, caused not only by the assault itself, but by the censorship of these experiences.
Halse-Anderson also mirrors her trauma from sexual violence to her veteran father’s PTSD from WWII. Both have a feeling of trauma and brokenness, however, one is able to lash out and be understood for doing so while the other is silenced and told to heal from her trauma in private. While there is no certain way to recover from a traumatic experience, the ability to admit that you are suffering and be able to openly be understood makes a difference. In this comparison, Halse-Anderson advocates that the trauma of sexual survivors should be just as respected and understood as the trauma of soldiers returning from war.
- In what ways has our society as a whole been taught to value or discredit censorship? How does your demographic (however you identify) view the censorship of tabooed subjects?
- What defines adequate sexual education? What do you wish you were taught at the time?
- Whose voices or experiences do we need to hear?
**If you want to answer/discuss confidentially, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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