Know My Name By Chanel Miller

TW: Sexual Assault

I finished this memoir weeks ago. I stare at my blank word document, trying to summarize my feelings about it, but end up deleting whatever I say. This is, hands down, the most important memoir I’ve ever read. As you likely know by now, Miller is the survivor of a sexual assault that Brock Turner perpetrated on Stanford’s idyllic campus. Her victim impact statement went viral and the world watched, enraged, as Turner received six months for his disgusting assault. The memoir is poignant, raw, hopeful, heartbreaking, and a stunning tribute to the night when Miller collided with a traumatic experience that molded her life for years, transformed her worldview, and brought her back to center, different and strong. I really wanted this review to say this – READ THIS BOOK. YOU NEED TO. RAPE CULTURE MUST BE CANCELLED. MILLER IS INCREDIBLE. Those short sentences are what all my thoughts boil down to, but here I attempt to say more.

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Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy is required reading. No ‘should be’ about it.

Bryan Stevenson was a Harvard Law student questioning his path, wondering if he’d made a colossal mistake in choosing law when he spent a few weeks working with the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee. An encounter with an inmate on death row allowed Stevenson to find his purpose, a purpose he dedicated his career and life to from that moment forward. As a new attorney, Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization that provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons. The EJI challenges the death penalty and excessive punishment and provides re-entry assistance to formerly incarcerated people. Just Mercy is a deep dive into Stevenson’s practice and cases.

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The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Jane Austen is a writer whose stories I love, whose writing a find alluring and romantic, and yet, is a writer who I rarely read. I regularly remark that I want to read of all of her work, but years go by and her work remains unread by me, with the minimal exception of books I read in a British Literature course in college. Well, for those who gobble up Jane Austen works and those who, like me, hold a certain fascination with her but are terrible at committing to reading her work, I’ve found the perfect book for you. Add in estate drama, legal battles, the grouping of unlikely characters, and you have the perfect book for me. 

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A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

This novel follows three Palestinian women living in Brooklyn, NY on two timelines—Deya, Fareeda, and Isra. Deya is eighteen with dreams of attending college and finding romantic, passionate love. Fareeda, Deya’s grandmother, believes that woman’s place is in the home and prefers Deya marry instead of attending college. In fact, she’s started arranging meetings with suitors. Fareeda’s beliefs are largely formed by her experience as a refugee in Palestine. Isra, Deya’s mother, was raised in Palestine, but married her husband, Adam (Fareeda’s son), and relocated to America where she believed women lived more freely. Isra’s storyline takes place in 1997 and she is deceased at the time of Deya’s narrative. ⁣⁣⁣
When I finished this book and was preparing this review, I reached out to a close college friend, Evelyn, who is Lebanese-American to discuss some of the aspects of this book that differed from my cultural experiences. She offered some insights that deepened my understanding of the book and said I could share some of those here. So, I will be including her thoughts throughout. I will note that she hasn’t read this book, but plans to read it in the future. Thank you, Evelyn, for your insight, willingness to discuss the book, and time spent working on this review with me! ⁣⁣⁣

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The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Desiree and Stella Vignes are twin sisters from Mallard, a town that is comprised of Black people who have lighter and lighter skin with each generation. Hearing Brit Bennett discuss the setting, and how she came to this story, is really interesting. Highly recommend watching her interviews! The way Bennett describes Mallard, so early in this story, is suggestive of the emotive, subtle, deeply thoughtful writing to come. 

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The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“They knew our names and they knew our parents. But they did not know us, because not knowing was essential to their power. To sell a child right from under his mother, you must know that mother only in the thinnest way possible. To strip a man down, condemn him to be beaten, flayed alive, then anointed with salt water, you cannot feel him the way you feel your own. You cannot see yourself in him, lest your hand be stayed, and your hand must never be stayed, because the moment it is, the Tasked will see that you see them, and thus see yourself. In that moment of profound understanding, you are all done, because you cannot rule as is needed.”

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The Fountains of Silence by Ruth Sepetys

The setting – Madrid 1957 under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. Madrid, while beautiful, conceals dark secrets. Tourists and foreign businessman come to the city, eager to explore but also to seek other opportunities. Daniel Matheson, the eighteen-year-old son of a Texas oil tycoon, arrives in the city hoping to photograph the area and people. While he was raised in Texas’s upper echelons, he always felt a bit out of place, with many Texans deeming his Spanish mother “too exotic.” The information Daniel is told about Madrid and life in Spain begins to unravel as he takes more and more photos, which seem to hold a different narrative. Soon he meets Ana, a maid at the hotel he is staying at with him family.

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Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

What makes a good marriage? Does a marriage survive or die because of its secrets? A Good Marriage addresses some of the questions surrounding marriage, and offers a glimpse into several marriages.

Lizzie is an attorney working at her law firm late at night (as some firm lawyers do), when she receives a phone call from Zach, a former classmate of hers. His wife, Amanda, was found dead at the bottom of their brownstone’s home and Zach is in custody at Riker’s – he’s the prime suspect.

Told in alternating perspectives, this is a gripping thriller that keeps you guessing at every turn.  I find thrillers hard to review without either identifying the red herrings or spoiling the mystery, so I will just leave a few words that I think describe what you’re in for when you pick this up: sex party, lies, conflicting motives, revenge, stalkers, unreliable narrators. I loved this story and couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend if you want a story that causes you to keep saying, “what. the. bleep?!” 

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

A collection essays from Jia Tolentino, Trick Mirror is a biting commentary on modern feminism, the internet, and the millennial dilemma of being progressive in some ways and complicit in others. It is sharp and self-aware and I thoroughly enjoyed the essays. Tolentino is a staff writer at the New Yorker and her voice is well-developed, balancing humor with commentary. The essays are well-researched and expansive covering a variety of social references to underscore her points.

My favorite essays were Pure Heroines, We Come From Old Virginia, and The Cult Of Difficult Women. This is hard book to review without giving too much away, so I will just suggest you read it!

I imagine this is one I will go back and re-read my favorite essays, underlining and annotating new points because they have so much depth. 💛

She Said by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey

October 5, 2017 –The New York Times published an article that ignited a movement. An article detailing decades of silencing that Harvey Weinstein and people who worked with and for him engaged in was released into the world and opened a floodgate of allegations and brought a reckoning that was long overdue. Two reporters, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, worked quietly for months trying to uncover the details of allegations against Weinstein, the movie mogul who seemed untouchable.

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