Things We Didn't Talk about When I Was a Girl: A Memoir
Jeannie Vanasco has had the same nightmare since she was a teenager. It is always about him: one of her closest high school friends, a boy named Mark. A boy who raped her. When her nightmares worsen, Jeannie decides--after fourteen years of silence--to reach out to Mark. He agrees to talk on the record and meet in person.
Jeannie details her friendship with Mark before and after the assault, asking the brave and urgent question: Is it possible for a good person to commit a terrible act? Jeannie interviews Mark, exploring how rape has impacted his life as well as her own.
Unflinching and courageous, Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl is part memoir, part true crime record, and part testament to the strength of female friendships--a recounting and reckoning that will inspire us to ask harder questions, push towards deeper understanding, and continue a necessary and long overdue conversation.
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About the Author
Vanasco's wildly courageous decision to confront her rapist, question him, meet with him, and then invite her readers into her processing of that experience is, frankly, stunning. This is a book I'll teach and reread well into the future, grateful that fewer and fewer girls will grow up without the opportunity to talk about these things.--Angela Pelster, author of LIMBER
Clearly this is an important and timely book. Even in a world that can seem brimming with stories similar to Vanasco's, hers stands out . . . heartfelt, painful, and essential.
Vanasco performs a literary feminist miracle for all women who have been denied basic rights, been suspect, been labeled, been unbelievable after their rapes and assaults, and shines our collective shame outwardly, to ask a man why a choice to abuse is made.--Sophia Shalmiyev, author of MOTHER WINTER
Vanasco is a brilliant craftsperson--blurring the lines between memoir, investigation, and interview, she confronts her years-ago rapist and dives headlong into the complexity of forgiveness and redemption, what was taken and what can be rebuilt. Our cultural discussion of rape is so deeply marked by silence. Enough with the silence. Enough. Vanasco has given us a bridge.--Megan Stielstra, author of THE WRONG WAY TO SAVE YOUR LIFE
Carrying memories of rape sometimes feels like working, day in and day out, on untangling a hopelessly knotted chain. In this book, Jeannie Vanasco works through the gnarl until its terrifying expanse is stretched out before us. There is so much power in these pages: in the vulnerability she shows in seeking answers, in the deftness with which she builds a narrative where there was once only a mess of questions and silence.--Elissa Washuta, author of STARVATION MODE
Vanasco's second memoir sets the canon of #MeToo-era creative nonfiction on fire: she interviews her rapist. ... This is a slow-burning, reverberating meditation on the nuances of morality, masculinity, and punishment. ... Inimitable. (Starred Review)
Vanasco invites her readers to understand the complicated humanity involved in both causing and experiencing harm, leaving the limits and possibilities of accountability and healing as urgent, open questions. An extraordinarily brave work of self- and cultural reflection. (Starred Review)
Vanasco gets at so many of the gray areas in our conversations about rape and the rehabilitation of its perpetrators. If some traumas don't fit into neat little narratives, then the pleasure of reading Vanasco is in knowing that messiness is OK, that there's no right way to handle such betrayals.--Maris Kreizman
Thought-provoking, unmooring, and haunting.
Jeannie Vanasco has written exactly the book we need right now. I wish everyone in this country would read it.--Melissa Febos, author of ABANDON ME
It's hard to overstate the importance of this gorgeous, harrowing, heartbreaking book, which tackles sexual violence and its aftermath while also articulating the singular pain of knowing -- or loving, or caring for, or having a history with -- one's rapist. Vanasco is whip-smart and tender, open and ruthless; she is the perfect guide through the minefield of her trauma, and ours.--Carmen Maria Machado
Bold, unsettling, and timely . . . critically important.--Laurie Halse Anderson
Singular, gutting ... perhaps the most important book of the season.
It's about violence and forgiveness, about friendship and the unwanted title of victim, about digging deeper and deeper to seek answers -- from yourself and from your bogeyman.--Maya Salam
A cuttingly funny meta-meditation on her own pain in the context of #MeToo.
It's a remarkably nuanced account of the complicated and confusing emotions that surface when your rapist is someone you knew and trusted.
Vanasco immediately makes you wonder how we can take so much about sexual assault for granted, how we will accept lines about women asking for it and women's insistence that it only happened this one time. But the book has - and achieves - a higher ambition than being an astute study in sexual consent.
Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl explores the common experience of rape with uncommon nuance and intense tenderness. In the process, the book also unexpectedly becomes a warm celebration of female friendship. Vanasco reveals the boundaries of your thoughts and feelings. Then she takes you beyond.--YZ Chin, author of THOUGH I GET HOME