Chanel Miller was a college graduate, a businesswoman, a creative, a wonderful sister, girlfriend, and daughter. Her future was as bright as the California sun, but when Stanford University student Brock Turner sexually assaulted her one night at a college party, her life took a backseat to his own. The court system saw this claim as a devastating stain on his future- he had so much potential, a groundbreaking swimming career within reach. It was impossible to think that this polite, handsome young man could potentially spend time behind bars.
Was it a fabrication? A misunderstanding? A drunken mutual exchange?
Chanel Miller wrote “Know My Name” to set the record straight. On January 17, 2015, she was sexually assaulted at a fraternity party while intoxicated, found passed out behind a dumpster, was taken to the hospital and examined thoroughly, was identified as a rape victim. She decided to press charges, come face to face with a man she had never formally met.
“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.”
Chanel Miller’s account intensifies as she names each emotion from confusion the morning after, laying on her back with feet in stirrups, to rage at her predator and others who feel compelled to initiate this type of unwanted attention, to abhorrent mystification over the United States Court System, through her own resilient highs and gut-wrenching lows, and finally, to the other side. She details just how life- altering being a victim can be, in any capacity, and shines a spotlight on how the world needs to reform, calls out the things we only journal about, discuss our closest companions, or suppress altogether.
Final Score: 5/5 I read “Know My Name” with my work book club (discussion questions below) and admit that I was not at all aware of Chanel Miller’s story. I completely missed the Brock Turner case, didn’t know about Katie Baker’s viral article on Buzzfeed, and remember very little about the #metoo movement as a whole, unfortunately. My team and I chose our May read based on suggestions so I downloaded the novel to my Kindle without even skimming a “back of book” summary.
I was sort of embarrassed after I finished reading, for not being more in tune with the world around me. I read this in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the “Black Lives Matter” effort and could immediately see parallels in these calls to action, identified how much I have grown since the time of #metoo. Still, I feel the need to apologize for my ignorance. Especially because this book was quite triggering for me, and I have always repressed my feelings of discomfort in exchange for indifference, timid flattery, or only mild annoyance. Chanel’s story highlights the realities that women- not even women, people in general- endure when self-entitled individuals provide non-consensual attention: Persistent or not, mild or aggressive, invasive or subtle. She brings to light just how many times we’ve been cat-called, honked at, followed, coerced into smiling, nodding, letting our guard down. And she stands up for us all, reminds us that its wrong.
Although some of the pages were difficult to get through, both for the vivid detail and/or for the drawn-out nature of the timeline, I still found “Know My Name” to be an incredibly moving account. My co-workers felt the same way; Some chapters dragged in effort to truly reinforce the magnitude of this issue, of the personal repercussions associated with such a terrible crime, and the meticulous or ridiculous idiosyncrasies of the court system… such details were important but impacted my overall ability to remain engaged.
BEST FOR: Anyone in pursuit of finding their voice. I don’t think that this book should be limited to females, or boxed in a category of #metoo movement accounts. I found a lot of similarities in Chanel’s words and those fighting racial injustice, those speaking out against LGBTQ inequalities, religious freedoms, those navigating who and what they stand for, etc. “Know My Name” is a narrative of strength against what the world finds to be uncomfortable, unimportant, or unworthy of questioning the status quo. I found myself humbled by Chanel’s words; they left me wondering what it is that I stand for and how I can further promote justice and change.
NOT GOOD FOR: While an important, impactful read, this novel extensively details a rape victim’s physical, mental, and journey, is very graphic at times. Shocking to all, triggering to some, it definitely should be read with caution.
IF THIS BOOK/ AUTHOR WAS A HIGH SCHOOL STEREOTYPE: Chanel Miller for President! She is right- In her book, she discusses her emergence from a line of storytellers. This novel should not be the only thing that defines her: She’s got so many other wisdoms to share with the world, and I for one, am excited to huddle in, listen closely.
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