What We Talk about When We Talk about Rape
DescriptionAfter surviving gang-rape at seventeen in Mumbai, Sohaila Abdulali was indignant about the deafening silence that followed and wrote a fiery piece about the perception of rape-and rape victims-for a women's magazine. Thirty years later, with no notice, her article reappeared and went viral in the wake of the 2012 fatal gang-rape in New Delhi, prompting her to write a New York Times op-ed about healing from rape that was widely circulated. Now, Abdulali has written What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape--a thoughtful, generous, unflinching look at rape and rape culture. Drawing on her own experience and her work with hundreds of survivors as the head of a rape crisis center in Boston, Abdulali tackles some of our thorniest questions about rape, articulating the confounding way we account for who gets raped and why. In interviews with survivors from around the world we hear moving personal accounts of hard-earned strength, humor, and wisdom that collectively tell the larger story of what rape means and how healing can occur. Abdulali also points to the questions we don't talk about: Is rape always a life-defining event? Is one rape worse than another? Is a world without rape possible? What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape is a book for this #MeToo and #TimesUp age that will stay with listeners-men and women alike-for a long, long time.
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About the AuthorSohaila Abdulali was born in Mumbai. She has a BA from Brandeis University in economics and sociology and an MA from Stanford University in communication. She is the author of two novels as well as children's books and short stories. She lives in New York with her family.
Praise for What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2018
"Brilliant, necessary reading on the ways we talk--and, more importantly, don't talk--about rape and rape culture."
"There should be many more books like Sohaila Abdulali's What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape. . . . It's essential reading."
--Washington City Paper
"Challenging, nuanced and altogether triumphant."
"It's that international conversation: the global analysis of rape, the globalization of the #MeToo movement, that makes Abdulali's book especially timely, and somewhat unique."
"Powerful but accessibly written."
"A candid, straightforward manifesto on sexual assault, rape culture, and where to go from here. . . . Abdulali achieves extraordinary success with this compulsively readable and effortlessly diverse book no doubt guaranteed to become an important part of the canon on gender studies and sexual assault."
--Library Journal (starred review)
"An important book working towards an important goal: meaningful and thoughtful discussion of a taboo subject."
"Abdulali brings precision, clarity, and style to her exploration of a topic often treated as more confusing than it is. . . . She approaches debates about consent, responsibility, motive, honor, and prevention with deep compassion, humor, a healthy dose of irony, and anger. . . . Her clear-eyed assessments, grace, and literary touches will make this book valuable reading for sociologists, therapists, feminists, and anyone who believes women should be able to move through the world free from fear."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"At once direct and nuanced, unblinking yet subtle, the author tackles the complexities of sexual violence head-on, rightly criticizing simplistic shibboleths. . . . The book is distinguished by its global view; Abdulali includes examples and illustrations from the United States but also from India, South Africa, and Egypt. . . . Susan Brownmiller, vitally updated."
"What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape is brilliant, frank, empowering, and urgently necessary."
"If the #MeToo campaign is to have any lasting impact . . . it will be because of books such as this."
--Preti Taneja, author of We That Are Young
"The right to our own bodies is the first step in any democracy, and by that measure, women in general--especially those of us also de-valued by race, caste, or class--are still subject to an intimate dictatorship. Read the personal stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape and see how far we have come--and have yet to go."
"An essential contribution to the current conversation about rape, rape culture, and the personal toll of sexual violence in the world today. Abdulali captures the complexity of this disturbing topic with clarity, compassion, and insight . . . [and] teaches us that surviving sexual violence is essentially a creative act. In her brave book she shares her, and many other, inspiring stories of surviving, thriving, and regaining wholeness."
--Richard O. Prum, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, Yale University, and author of The Evolution of Beauty
"Both hard to read and an amazing, vital read, What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape is the exact book we all need right now. Sohaila is a brilliant and beautiful writer, filled with empathy, and she is a thought leader for our generation."
--Alyssa Mastromonaco, author of Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?, co-host of #HYSTERIA podcast, and former White House deputy chief of staff
"What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape places the American #MeToo movement in a global context. Sohaila Abdulali takes us from the U.S., to India, South Africa, Mexico, Kuwait, and other countries, providing examples that illustrate both the intense particularity and infuriating similarities of sexual violence around the globe. The book is courageous, angry, compassionate, informative, hopeful, and wise."
--Elizabeth A. Armstrong, professor of sociology, University of Michigan
"Know this: the shock is not that Abdulali speaks frankly about rape. The shock is not that she interrogates the content, and limits, of our public discourses about rape culture with candor and warmth, with cool precision and justified rage, with wisdom and, yes, humor. The shock is that there are not more books like this. Read it, and do not stop talking."
--Sarah Krasnostein, author of The Trauma Cleaner
"Such a lot of insight in this book. I wish I had written it. The more we talk, the more we learn. The more we learn, the more we can change. Read this book and be part of the change."
--Una, author of Becoming Unbecoming