141: Chanel Miller's KNOW MY NAME - September Book Club
In this Unabridged Book Club episode, we discuss Chanel Miller's memoir, Know My Name. We discuss the powerful impact of Chanel Miller's words and the way that she is changing the world through sharing her story. In our book pairings, we talk about Laurie Halse Anderson's SHOUT, Jon Krakauer’s Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, and Jason Reynolds’s and Brendan Kiely’s All American Boys.
Ashley - Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material
Jen - Natasha Trethewey’s Memorial Drive
Sara - Kate Stayman-London’s One to Watch
Mentioned in Episode
Chanel Miller's Know My Name
Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy
Episode 78: Laurie Halse Anderson Highlight - It Is Okay to Fight
Kiese Laymon's Heavy
Episode 138: Dive into Nonfiction Reads
Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak
Ashley - Laurie Halse Anderson’s SHOUT
Jen - Jon Krakauer’s Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
Sara - Jason Reynolds’s and Brendan Kiely’s All American Boys
Give Me One - Instrument You Wish You Played
Ashley - cello
Jen - guitar
Sara - guitar or piano
Interested in what we talked about in our episode? Check out our SNEAK PEEK below where we share a glimpse into our bookish check-in, some quotes and highlights, and a little bit about our book pairings from the episode. And remember that if you're loving it, please SHARE it! Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, share our episode on social media, and use the share buttons below to share these show notes!
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Want a sneak peek at our episode? Check out some of the highlights from our discussion below!
Jen is reading Natasha Tretheway's Memorial Drive. About Tretheway, she said, "I don't read a lot of poetry, but the poetry of hers I've read is gorgeous. And I got to hear her speak at the National Book Festival. She read some of her poetry aloud and she talks about this memoir that she was writing about her mother's murder. And so that is that's a book I'm reading now."
Jen shared that the memoir talks about Tretheway's memories of her mother and also about her mother's murder. She shared that Tretheway "is biracial. Her father is from Canada and is white. And her mother was from Alabama, and it's black. And so she talks a lot about growing up and the experiences she had when she was young. And then her parents got divorced. And her mother remarried, and it's her stepfather who murdered her mother. So, it's very much about remembering her mom and trying to sort of recapture these memories of her. And then it accounts for what happened to her."
Ashley shared that she's reading Alexis Hall's Boyfriend Material. This one was a Libro.FM option with their ALC program. Ashley said, "I started this other night and I was just totally swept away. It's a really sweet story of Luc, who is the main character. He's having trouble finding his way. And that's partially because of his family. His parents are both sort of washed up rock stars, and they were separated when he was young. But because of this very loose connection to fame, the paparazzi are always watching him. One thing that is captured right away in the book is this idea that it's easy to be negatively impacted by a little bit of fame instead of having any positive impacts. And so you definitely see this happening for Luke that he doesn't have any great accolades happening for him because of this connection, but he does have to watch what he's doing all the time. And every mistake that he makes is put on display." So Luc finds himself in need of a fake boyfriend to help with his image, which is how Oliver comes into the picture.
Sara is reading Kate Stayman-London's One to Watch. Sara shared that "this book is about a plus size fashion blogger. She is unlucky in love, but she is super successful in her career. She has this huge support system in her family and friends. She's an awesome person, but she just is having some trouble with love. And she is a huge fan of this reality TV show called main squeeze. And so you know, it seems very Bachelor-esque. And so you know, I'm here for that." She said that it is "the right book at the right time" for her right now, and she is excited to see how it goes!
After our bookish check-in, we dive into our discussion of Chanel Miller's Know My Name. Here's our quick summary of that memoir: In 2015, Chanel Miller attended a party with her sister and a friend where she was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner, then a student at Stanford University. This crime and the subsequent trial gained national notoriety as did the shades of grey surrounding laws concerning rape and consent in the US. In this memoir, Chanel, in her own words, tell us her story of her assault, the aftermath and the ways in which she will continue to move forward.
Here are a few of our thoughts about this powerful memoir. We shared some overall impressions, and then we dove into the memoir.
Ashley shared that "the real impact for me is that it opens up this window for people who might feel that these cases aren't that big of a deal, or that people should be coming forward or that it we could simply bring about change if we just if more people just shared what happened to them. I think it eliminates a lot of those attitudes and makes it very difficult for people to continue to perpetuate those ideas. And I think that's really important because if we can convince people that is not the victim's responsibility, then those things can open up a wider cultural shift that I think is really needed. So I feel like the thing that really resonated with me is how she's able to show that not only the incident itself, but all of the aftermath had a profound and lasting impact on her life on the lives of her family members and down the lives of her friends."
Jen said that "I think this memoir is a reclamation of [Miller's] identity. And I think when she says this is right at the beginning when she says, 'However, I am not Brock Turner’s victim. I am not his anything. I don’t belong to him' (viii). I think she is reckoning with the fact that she has come to be known only through that lens and that she is so much more. She shows resistance to [people's attitudes that] because he's a great swimmer, he couldn't have done this thing. She's doing the reverse of that because she is his victim. She is still all of these other things."
Sara commented that she started out reading the print copy, "but I switched to audiobook because a lot of people when I posted it on Instagram said that the audio was so amazing and that Chanel reads it. And I will say that I feel like that was a good choice for me because hearing her say her words in her own voice is super powerful. Especially when she read the Emily Doe victim statement -- I mean, she delivered it, and I thought that that was super powerful to hear that in her own words. So I think what worked for me, it was a good choice for me to switch from the paper copy to the audio book because it added a level of power to the words that I couldn't get as quickly off the page."
We also shared some of the many phenomenal passages from the memoir that impacted us.
"I didn’t know that money could make the cell doors swing open. I didn’t know that if a woman was drunk when the violence occurred, she wouldn’t be taken seriously. I didn’t know that if he was drunk when the violence occurred, people would offer him sympathy. I didn’t know that my loss of memory would become his opportunity. I didn’t know that being a victim was synonymous with not being believed. Sitting in the driveway, I didn’t know this little yes would reopen my body, would rub the cuts raw, would pry my legs open for the public" (23).
Jen shared this passage from the beginning of the memoir and noted that this refers to when Chanel decides to press charges. She said, "The privilege in the book associated with Brock Turner and the double standards I just found to be absolutely infuriating, and I was so angry with his family throughout the book and the way that they just treated her-- they didn't even treat her, but they just acted as if she was not there, as if there was just no one in the courtroom. It was all about their son. And for him it was all about himself."
"His talent precedes the tragedy. She was supposedly born in it. I did not come into existence when he harmed me. She found her voice! I had a voice, he stripped it, left me groping around blind for a bit, but I always had it. I just used it like I never had to use it before. I do not owe him my success, my becoming, he did not create me. The only credit Brock can take is for assaulting me, and he could never even admit to that" (288-89).
Ashley shared that quote and commented that "to me that is the thing that works best in the book is both that she gets, she highlights so well, the whole process and how unbelievably brutal It is, in addition to surviving sexual assault, that she the ongoing pain of that, but also this idea that the attitude that in some ways because she spoke out, this somehow made her who she was, and I think that is a misrepresentation as well. So she had this strength inside herself. Yes, the the experience is going to have an impact on her as a person but it did not make her he did not make her who she is. And I just really appreciated that to her ability to show that when a woman is strong, it is not the assaulter who made her strong."
"According to him, the only reason we were on the ground was because I fell down. Note: if a girl falls down help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If a girl falls down help her up. If she is wearing a cardigan over her dress don’t take it off so that you can touch her breasts. Maybe she is cold, maybe that’s why she wore the cardigan" (343).
Sara shared that "the victim impact statement [at the end of the memoir] for me was the most powerful thing in the book because she was able to negate every single argument that both the judge and the defense attorney tried to argue in the trial itself. It's just so frustrating. And as a woman and a mother of a daughter, it is terrifying to me what the narrative is that surrounds this: Questions like what was she wearing? Has she had other sexual partners? Who cares? I think what the book did for me, and the thing that worked the most for me is to get me fired up about what kind of world my daughter is going to be going out into. And what do I need to advocate for to make it better?"
Jen selected Jon Krakauer’s Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. Here is the description from the publisher. Be sure to listen to the episode to hear Jen's thoughts!
Description from the Publisher: "Missoula, Montana, is a typical college town, home to a highly regarded state university whose beloved football team inspires a passionately loyal fan base. Between January 2008 and May 2012, hundreds of students reported sexual assaults to the local police. Few of the cases were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.
"In these pages, acclaimed journalist Jon Krakauer investigates a spate of campus rapes that occurred in Missoula over a four-year period. Taking the town as a case study for a crime that is sadly prevalent throughout the nation, Krakauer documents the experiences of five victims: their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the skepticism directed at them by police, prosecutors, and the public; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them. These stories cut through abstract ideological debate about acquaintance rape to demonstrate that it does not happen because women are sending mixed signals or seeking attention. They are victims of a terrible crime, deserving of fairness from our justice system. Rigorously researched, rendered in incisive prose, Missoula stands as an essential call to action."
Ashley chose Laurie Halse Anderson’s SHOUT. Check out this synopsis from the publisher, and listen in to hear the connections to Know My Name.
Description from the publisher: "Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a critically acclaimed poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven among deeply personal stories from her life that she's never written about before. Praised as 'captivating,' 'powerful,' and 'essential' by critics, this searing and soul-searching memoir is a denouncement of our society's failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #MeToo and #TimesUp, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. SHOUT speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice--and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore."
Sara chose Jason Reynolds’s and Brendan Kiely’s All American Boys. We had amazing discussions during our August buddy read on Instagram talking about this one. See the description below, and listen in to hear the connections Sara makes between this amazing book and Know My Name.
Description from the Publisher: "A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?
"There were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.
"Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this four-starred reviewed tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken directly from today’s headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth."
Give Me One - Musical Instrument You Wish You Played
In our Give Me One segment, we shared our different backgrounds with music, and we talked a bit about the instruments we played (or pretended to play) growing up. We had fun talking about those experiences and then wrapped up by sharing an instrument we each wish we could play.
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