Me Too. Two words. And yet they hold incredible power. Do not mistake this power for something easy. Me too is not an easy thing to say when many of us have spent years burdened by shame and silence. To see others coming forward is both salvation in knowing there is a community waiting… and terrifying if you don’t feel ready, feel that your story won’t be treated with dignity, or believed, perpetuating the shame you already feel. But when you are ready (or almost), a book can be a good place to start.
For me, that book was SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson – her YA memoir in verse. I was trepidatious to say the least, but garnered an early listening copy from Libro.fm and decided to be brave. It was beautiful and perfect. I’d never read Speak in high school, but I was quick to bring a copy home after that. And I felt healed. So I kept reading. Perhaps some of these stories will help you too…
Know My Name by Chanel Miller made a splash in the fall of 2019, and rightly so. I’ll admit trepidation – worry that the publisher had signed the book only because of the survivor attached to it, not because of her writing ability. But after ‘Emily Doe’s letter to Brock Turner was published by BuzzFeed in 2016, I should have known better. That was undeniably powerful, as was this memoir by Chanel Miller. It was in her words that I began to feel like I was part of something bigger (albeit something I wish not so many had to face) and began to feel like I could take these demons on because her story is incredibly powerful, amazingly brave, and for all its pain, somehow hopeful. Chanel never sugarcoats it, never reduces her experience to a past she’s left behind. She is a survivor because she continues to survive, continues to grow and learn and heal. Know My Name is beautifully written, every page worth highlighting. Undoubtedly a difficult read, but more than worthwhile, necessary.
Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotugno – In the vein of Speak, this one tackles high school dynamics and the shame cast upon those who report their abusers. Bushnell and Cotugno masterfully address the ever more complicated aspect of what it means to report someone in a position of authority without ‘evidence’ and what it means to decide the rules aren’t working anymore. Powerful and necessary, but get ready to get angry.
Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis is not a story that opens with the #MeToo narrative. In fact, it’s not mentioned anywhere in its synopsis or marketing materials. One would think it’s the story of a young woman who’s in love with her best friend who’s getting married to someone else and the hilarity that ensues. But its backbone, and large part of the reason she met this best friend in the first place, is rooted in Emmie’s survival. Dear Emmie Blue is beautiful, heartwarming, swoonworthy, and real – a testament for survivors everywhere that shows how difficult it can be, but how worthwhile when you just keep going.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – I’ll be the first person to admit that I had not read anything else by Leigh when this story landed in my lap, pitched as urban fantasy for adults. It’s ghostly and powerful, and though not strictly a story about trauma, it does contain it – something which there were not content warnings for when the book was published. This may not be a book you’re ready for yet, and that’s okay. But if you feel up for it, there is something incredible in Alex’s journey and survivorship, especially for being set in a world that isn’t entirely our own.
Because this behavior is too often erased in the queer community, In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, is another necessary addition for this list. In decisive, yet incredibly lyrical prose, Carmen pulls apart the complexities of abuse in queer relationships, chronicling the ups and downs and outs of her own experience, unfortunately shared by so many others. Broken into easily digestible vignettes, In the Dream House screams no for those who aren’t seen, aren’t believed, and claws at the silence of generations. A beautiful, haunting, undeniably important piece of literature that refuses to be silenced.
And last but not least (for now), the witch doesn’t burn in this one by amanda lovelace makes for a cathartic read on the days you just need to get angry, but in a hopeful way. I devoured the entire Women Are Some Kind of Magic collection over the course of a few evenings. It’s fiercely feminist (albeit sometimes at risk of misandry), digs into the dark places, and comes out singing. I will certainly be re-reading, and reading more of lovelace’s poems in the days to come.
The above are just a few of the stories I have read and that have moved me. There are so many more stories of sexual assault (fiction and non-fiction alike), its survivors, and its aftermath available for those who need them on their own journey, or would like these tools to learn and assist. I’ve compiled a longer list via Bookshop.org, but please don’t hesitate to reach out for further recommendations, or a shoulder to lean on. We are in this together. As Laurie Halse Anderson says in one of her poems from Shout, “Sisters, drop everything. Walk away from the lake, leaning on each other’s shoulders when you need the support. Feel the contractions of another truth ready to be born.”
Other Resources via RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network): https://www.rainn.org/national-resources-sexual-assault-survivors-and-their-loved-ones
Sidenote: The phrase, ‘Me Too’ gained notoriety in 2017 surrounding the Harvey Weinstein allegations. However, it was coined in 2006 by Tarana Burke. Do not erase her or her work from this conversation.