Know My Name (Review) // Words cannot describe how powerful this book is

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD

‘A beautifully written, powerful, important story. It marks the debut of a gifted young writer’ New York Times

‘A searing, beautiful book by a supremely talented writer’ Sunday Times

‘Extraordinary woman turning pain into power. Chanel Miller, it’s a privilege to know your name, and to celebrate it’ Thandie Newton

‘You are a brave soul. You are more than the identity given to you by the media and those in power’ Monica Lewinsky

‘Incredibly moving and haunting’ Roxane Gay

She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford’s campus. Her victim impact statement was posted on Buzzfeed, where it instantly went viral – viewed by eleven million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. Thousands wrote to say that she had given them the courage to share their own experiences of assault for the first time.

Now she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words. It was the perfect case, in many ways – there were eyewitnesses, Turner ran away, physical evidence was immediately secured. But her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios. Her story illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicts a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shines with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.

Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing. It also introduces readers to an extraordinary writer, one whose words have already changed our world. Entwining pain, resilience, and humour, this memoir will stand as a modern classic.

‘In a world that asks too many survivors to keep their experiences to themselves and shrink their suffering to preserve someone else’s potential, Know My Name stands unapologetically large, asking others to reckon with its author’s dazzling, undiminishable presence. To read it, in spite of everything, inspires hope.’ Guardian

‘A skilled writer… Miller tells [her story] beautifully, caring enough for her reader to spin golden sentences from her pain’ Vogue

‘Powerful, honest and necessary. Chanel Miller is amazing’ Marian Keyes

‘I read this book cover to cover and it stunned me: Chanel Miller is such a lushly talented writer, with such beautiful instincts, that she does the nearly impossible by making this book easily surmount its origin point.’ Jia Tolentino

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Gut-wrenching, eloquent, honest… These are only a few of the words I could use to describe this book. If I were to continue, I would say that it is inspirational, heartbreaking, and urgent all at once. I began reading expecting a fireball, but Know My Name was an erupting volcano. If you haven’t already read the [Emily Doe victim impact statement originally published on Buzzfeed], I urge you to do so. It gives you the first glimpse of how Chanel Miller’s words can impact you.

In a journey backwards to the past and forward back to the present, Chanel Miller ties together a narrative exploring how all the pieces of her life have slotted together to shape her identity. She has an effortless way of linking past recollections with the present of the narrative she is telling, metaphors leading to a hint of foreshadowing. There is no denying the sheer beauty of her writing and the power of her storytelling; she is an artist, it is her purpose to create, and she does so in astonishing colours.

Early on in the book, she says “this is not a personal indictment, not a clapback, a blacklist, a rehashing. I believe we are all multidimensional beings, and in court, it felt harmful being flattened, characterised, mislabeled, and vilified so I will not do the same to them”. I believe it’s important to point out this quote because Know My Name isn’t some epic story of triumph, it’s about a journey of sadness, loss, and anger. Chanel Miller describes experiences unique to her, but by changing a few names, dates, and locations, her story would become another’s. I’ve read the statistics, of course, but seeing her really put it into perspective is absolutely terrifying. And I wonder when it was that society got so messed up, but I’m beginning to realise that maybe it was like this all along. However, there is a positive side, the light at the end of the tunnel, that we are reminded of. For every bad day there is a good one; ultimately this is a story of hope.

There is so much more that I could say about this book and how it affected me, and I’m sure that as I start to fully process it in the next few days there will be things that come to me which I’ll wish I put in this review, but the best way to understand would be to read it yourself. Immerse yourself in the stories, the emotions, the recovery. This is not a book I’m forgetting anytime soon; the messages are seared into my mind, and the collective mind of all who fight for change so that the world we live in is a better, safer place.

A book that changed your life?

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4 thoughts on “Know My Name (Review) // Words cannot describe how powerful this book is

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