Title: Know My Name
Author: Chanel Miller
Book 18 of 2021
Reading Time: 6hrs 15mins
Date Finished: June 6, 2021
Content Warnings: Rape, rape trauma, mental illness, depression, sexism, legal injustice, rich white men
TRIGGER WARNING: I will be discussing rape and resulting trauma in this review, along with some details of the People v. Turner case. Please DO NOT continue if these topics are too difficult for you or have potential to bring up trauma.
What Worked For Me: Raw honesty
What Didn’t Work For Me: The fact that Brock Turner is allowed to walk around instead of being in jail
Rating and reviewing memoirs is hard enough because it can come across like a low rating is judging someone’s life while a higher one is praising them. While reading this, I was very conflicted about whether or not I would rate it. As I neared the end, I decided that it would be appropriate because the way Miller writes about her experiences is one of the most raw, emotional things I’ve ever read. And I want to force every man in my life to read this book too.
I heard of Brock Turner pretty soon after he was arrested back in 2015. Off and on, I followed the case up until it went to court and the verdict came out. All of that happened during my junior and senior years of high school, and I actually remember talking to some of my girlfriends about it when the case first made international news.
If you somehow managed to miss all that, Turner was a Standford freshmen who raped a woman at a frat party in 2015. He is a piece of shit, he is guilty, and he was largely excused from this crime because it would “affect his chances of Olympic swimming prospects and a future in med school.” The court case only listed his victim as Emily Doe to protect her identity. In 2019, Emily Doe chose to make her identity public, appearing on Oprah’s talk show and revealing that her name is Chanel Miller. This memoir recounts what happened the night of her assault and everything leading up to when she wrote her memoir (2019).
Reading this was a powerful experience. I cried at least three times and highlighted over 60 different passages. Miller’s words were raw and real and emotive. And though I don’t know what it’s like to go through what she did, a part of me could relate because of my own experience with someone who manipulated and took advantage of me. Hearing her talk through denial of trauma and how it suddenly shifted something in her, I felt something shift in me too.
By no means is this an easy book to read. I had to stop several times because it got really intense and real. When she talked about seeing Turner again for the first time, I cried for her. For the pain she felt and for already knowing what the verdict was going to be. I read her accounts of the trial and how Turner’s family begged for him to be given second chances because of a “drunken mistake” that “didn’t reflect his character.” It made me furious. It still does.
One of the best chapters I read was Miller’s account of how long it took for her to realize what happened to her, to stop being in denial. It made me feel better because for a long time, I didn’t want to use certain words to describe what happened to me. That would make it sound bad, and I didn’t want what happened to me to be that bad. Reading Miller’s words as she came to terms with her assault gave me peace that I wasn’t wrong for taking more time, for needing more time to find words that fit.
The truth is, I don’t know how to talk about this book because it’s one that needs to speak for itself, as Miller has spoken for herself. As she is a pioneering voice among women who are telling their story, no longer afraid to have their voices heard and faces known. This will be the first of many books about the women who have survived terrible things, I have no doubt. It has carved a hard path for hard stories, and I’m grateful for Miller’s bravery with her words.
If this is the kind of material you can handle, I would recommend picking it up. If you’re a guy, I DEFINITELY recommend picking it up. There’s a lot to be learned here for both genders, but first, it has to start with a willingness to hear, without judgement, the stories of those who have survived.