Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl
Jeannie Vanasco has had the same nightmare since she was a teenager. She startles awake, saying his name. 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. "It's the least I can do," he says.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. She examines the language surrounding sexual assault and pushes against its confines, contributing to and deepening the #MeToo discussion.Exacting 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 and interrogate our biases. Jeannie Vanasco examines and dismantles long-held myths of victimhood, discovering grace and power in this genre-bending investigation into the trauma of sexual violence.

Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl Details

TitleThings We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 1st, 2019
PublisherTin House Books
ISBN-139781947793453
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Feminism, Biography

Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl Review

  • Laurie Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 starsI got to review Jeannie Vanasco's memoir about confronting her rapist (who had been a close friend) fourteen years after he assaulted her. Thoughtful, provocative, and raw; you want to read this one.Want to know more? Here's a link to my TIME review: https://time.com/5686831/things-we-di...
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Oof. I suspected this would be great but it packs more of a punch than I even expected - Vanasco, a woman in her early 30s and teacher of memoir writing at a university, decides to get back in touch with her rapist, a guy she was close friends with as a teenager until he assaulted her at a party when she was 19. The book then chronicles the process of getting back in touch with this guy ("Mark"), first through a series of phone calls and how the process of revisiting the rape and her friendship Oof. I suspected this would be great but it packs more of a punch than I even expected - Vanasco, a woman in her early 30s and teacher of memoir writing at a university, decides to get back in touch with her rapist, a guy she was close friends with as a teenager until he assaulted her at a party when she was 19. The book then chronicles the process of getting back in touch with this guy ("Mark"), first through a series of phone calls and how the process of revisiting the rape and her friendship with him - while also trying to write about it - impacts upon her, building up to when she decides to travel to meet him and interview him face to face.Jeannie decides to record the phone calls, allowing for a level of self-analysis/reflection as well as being able to go over and really think about what Mark says during these conversations. She quickly realises that she is trying to reassure and comfort Mark through the language she uses to make sure she isn't making him feel uncomfortable. The level of introspection is, I guess, expected from someone who teaches memoir writing, but I found it added so much to the narrative. Why do (some) women find it so hard to put their own feelings above those of (almost invariably) men around them? Jeannie also discusses the writing process with a number of writer friends throughout the period spanning her conversations with Mark, helping her to further pick apart and analyse her own reaction to events, as well as how Mark responds to her getting back in touch. I found this impossible to put down and a thought-provoking read on a number of levels.Highly recommended.Thank you Netgalley and Prelude Books for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Polly
    January 1, 1970
    "I doubt I'm the only woman sexually assaulted by a friend and confused about her feelings."Wow. This is one powerful read.Heavy content warnings for rape and sexual assault.15 years ago, Jeannie Vanasco was raped by a close friend. In this memoir, she explores how that incident affected her then, affects her now, and - in a move that makes this book not only unique but a necessary read - talks to her rapist about his view on the assault.Despite being written i "I doubt I'm the only woman sexually assaulted by a friend and confused about her feelings."Wow. This is one powerful read.Heavy content warnings for rape and sexual assault.15 years ago, Jeannie Vanasco was raped by a close friend. In this memoir, she explores how that incident affected her then, affects her now, and - in a move that makes this book not only unique but a necessary read - talks to her rapist about his view on the assault.Despite being written in a simple style that's easy to follow, it's taken a week for me to get through this because the heavy subject matter was mentally exhausting at times. It reads like a stream of consciousness - at times it is messy but that only makes it feel more real. Throughout the writing, Vanasco is exploring her feelings and coming to new ones, and the fact that she is constantly battling between what she, as a Good Feminist, should be feeling versus what she is actually feeling makes it a very interesting and relatable read. The fact that the book is written in a kind of "real time" - the author describes writing the memoir while doing so - makes it feel very much like reading a diary. It's a very intimate feeling to read this book, but never feels intrusive. The prevalence of sexual assault is felt heavily throughout the book. This was not the author's only experience of this, and she talks candidly about other times she's been violated. She also talks about the depressing number of her students who have had similar experiences, as well as friends of hers. Many books exist about rape and sexual assault, but the nuance that this one offers by bringing the assailant's voice is brought to the table makes it a standout in a world of #MeToo and other movements that have made the topic an important talking point. While this, as Vanasco herself acknowledges several times throughout the book, may be a red flag for many women, I'd encourage people to go in with an open mind. The perpetrator doesn't get an easy ride in this, and there's never a point where he's portrayed as either a someone without blame.It's interesting to see both Jeannie and Mark (not his real name) process their feelings about that one night, 15 years later. "This story isn't original, and that's the story. Sexual assault happens all the time. What makes this story sort of unusual is we're having the conversation. I don't think that happens very often."4.5 stars.
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  • Tim
    January 1, 1970
    I finished Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was A Girl, a memoir about sexual assault/rape where the author contacts and interviews her former "friend" who assaulted her 14 years prior. It's a powerful story of friendship, betrayal, gender, sexual assault, forgiveness but mostly about the performance of gender for good and ill. "Mark" is not redeemed but also not demonized. Essential reading. It will be read and discussed mostly by women but should also be read by boys/men.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    5 big huge giant stars for this memoir. I’ve not read anything like this before. I loved her style, transparency, honesty, and heartfelt true emotion in this. Transcribing conversations with her perpetrator was smart, but then analyzing her own behavior in each interaction after transcription was genius. If you or anybody you know has experienced sexual assault or a confusing sexual encounter with anybody in your life, this book will shed some light. It did for me.
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  • Holly Tracy
    January 1, 1970
    Update: I decided to change this to two stars from one. It deserves at least an additional star for the act of doing this at all, what it took emotionally to be able to write anything down, let alone interviewing and seeing her rapist, someone who was a good friend and betrayed that relationship.First: brave topic and approach. However, the execution is flawed. Most obvious: nothing in this book implies a list of things that weren’t taught to the author as a girl. Nothing was mention Update: I decided to change this to two stars from one. It deserves at least an additional star for the act of doing this at all, what it took emotionally to be able to write anything down, let alone interviewing and seeing her rapist, someone who was a good friend and betrayed that relationship.First: brave topic and approach. However, the execution is flawed. Most obvious: nothing in this book implies a list of things that weren’t taught to the author as a girl. Nothing was mentioned in any way, so the title just...doesn’t make any sense. My biggest problem is that it’s basically the story of her process interviewing the friend that assaulted her and putting it into a book, not the book itself. It feels like a long, drawn-out, repetitive Q&A with herself. She transcribes the conversations with him, so it becomes a Q&A with him. There seems to be no point, no lesson, no insight at all. The guy feels terrible, guilty, and feels he owes it to her to talk to her for this book...but it’s like you never get to the point. Several times in the book I had to flip back to make sure I hadn’t misplaced my bookmark because I’d already heard the same things, chapter after chapter. I appreciate what I think she was trying to do which I think is prove how any guy, even the nice guys, can do something awful. But it doesn’t ever quite get there because the sample set is just “Mark”, it’s just (again) the process of talking through WANTING to make this point and wanting to write a book that achieves that, but not getting down to it. The author wants this to reach an audience, but to what end? I hope it helped her work through some things, but it just reads like someone talking about the book they’re GOING to write, an author’s work product, but not the book itself.
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  • Eric
    January 1, 1970
    Things We Didn't Talk about When I was a Girl by Jeannie Vanasco details her sexual assault victimization and the aftermath. The memoir is quite insightful and provides many interesting observations when it comes to victims, society and those that do wrong. Fourteen years after a sexual assault incident, Jeannie Vanasco reestablishes contact with the perpetrator and details her life before, during and after the incident. Along the way, Jeannie Vanasco insightfully discusses the subject of sexual Things We Didn't Talk about When I was a Girl by Jeannie Vanasco details her sexual assault victimization and the aftermath. The memoir is quite insightful and provides many interesting observations when it comes to victims, society and those that do wrong. Fourteen years after a sexual assault incident, Jeannie Vanasco reestablishes contact with the perpetrator and details her life before, during and after the incident. Along the way, Jeannie Vanasco insightfully discusses the subject of sexual assault from problematic definitions, stigmatization, and how issues both follow and haunt the victim, oftentimes at the hands of the perpetrator. In the memoir, one effective thing Jeannie Vanasco does that increases the impact of the content of her memoir is to definitively explain the event as it occurred and that what happened is not in dispute by either her or her perpetrator. This allows the reader to react more strongly to Jeannie Vanasco's writing without the encumbrance of being concerned with conflicting memories and interpretations of both of those involved. Jeannie Vanasco's writing is open, powerfully honest, and quite revealing, which adds to the importance of her memoir.
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  • Jessica Sullivan
    January 1, 1970
    “I’m interested in writing about us, because I want to understand, I want to believe, that it’s possible to be a good person, a really good person, who makes a mistake.”Wow. Okay. This is the #MeToo era book I’ve been waiting for. The movement has been so crucial from an activism standpoint, but I’ve often felt like the mainstream conversation lacks the nuance that has shaped my personal experiences.When Jeannie Vanasco was 19 years old, her good friend Mark raped her at “I’m interested in writing about us, because I want to understand, I want to believe, that it’s possible to be a good person, a really good person, who makes a mistake.”Wow. Okay. This is the #MeToo era book I’ve been waiting for. The movement has been so crucial from an activism standpoint, but I’ve often felt like the mainstream conversation lacks the nuance that has shaped my personal experiences.When Jeannie Vanasco was 19 years old, her good friend Mark raped her at a party. Now, years later, she revisits this experience from an intellectual perspective: the banality of contemptible acts, the philosophy of forgiveness, the psychology of a good person capable of doing terrible things. From her standpoint, Mark isn’t an “easily digestible bad guy;” he’s more complex than that, and her prior friendship with him complicates things even further.This is a mix of a memoir and a recorded conversation between Jeannie and Mark, who agreed to talk to her and help her unpack what happened. It’s extremely self-referential and introspective, as much of the book is Jeannie processing her uncomfortable feelings about writing it, and the self-aware realizations she reaches throughout.She notices the things she does—the things that many women are conditioned to do—to minimize her own experiences and protect those around her, including her abuser. She questions herself constantly, wondering if she’s centering Mark too much, if she should be more angry at him. She struggles with the language of what happened to her, finally coming around to labeling it “rape.”I found so much of this to be extremely relatable. It’s the parts of the #MeToo dialogue that are most uncomfortable to talk about, as gray areas often are. The complexity of being raped or sexually assaulted by someone you know and care about. The reluctance to use certain terms, such as “rape,” because an experience doesn’t fit preconceived notions of what that means. The question of whether a single bad act should define someone, and what accountability and forgiveness might look like.Smart, challenging and incredibly thought-provoking. There are no easy answers here, but lots to think about.
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  • Cookies_Comforts
    January 1, 1970
    TW - rape and sexual assault. Due to the nature of this book, I don’t want to write anything negative about the subject matter. I feel, it was a different and unique way to write life events. The only thing I struggled with was the length of the book.
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  • Ruth
    January 1, 1970
    Wowza. I've never read anything like "Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl" before. It's a fascinating look into the mind of a "nice guy" who rapes a friend, how that particular kind of betrayal is processed by both the victim and the perpetrator, and the complications of writing about it. It's so rare to get the perspective of the perpetrator, and the result here is stunning. I was especially moved by Vanasco's wrestling with whether or not to describe what happened to her as rape; tha Wowza. I've never read anything like "Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl" before. It's a fascinating look into the mind of a "nice guy" who rapes a friend, how that particular kind of betrayal is processed by both the victim and the perpetrator, and the complications of writing about it. It's so rare to get the perspective of the perpetrator, and the result here is stunning. I was especially moved by Vanasco's wrestling with whether or not to describe what happened to her as rape; that entire thread is devastatingly relatable. I'm so happy and grateful that this book was published.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    I wish I could give this book ten stars, but even then it still wouldn’t do it justice. This is such an important book that applies to all women and girls, whether or not we have been assaulted. The need to apologize, to think about others first before ourselves, to downplay violent crime, and to continue to contact rapists after they have violated trust in the most inhumane way—she includes all of the ways girls and women have been conditioned to be nice.
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  • Tracy
    January 1, 1970
    Wow! And what I loved the most was her ability to show the gray area where rape and sexual assault lie, because often these acts occur within our family and social communities and involve individuals we trust. It's damned uncomfortable to say the least but having conversations about this is good and we need more.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    TW: discussions of rape and sexual assault throughoutThanks to Netgalley for providing me with an eARC of this book. All opinions and comments made here are my own."Don't back down, she said. Don't let them twist what you know is true"Oof let me start by saying that my review, is in no way going to do this book justice. I implore you to read this, incredibly thought-provoking memoir. "I'll tell him: I still have nightmares about you"I've never read a memoir before so rea/>"Don't TW: discussions of rape and sexual assault throughoutThanks to Netgalley for providing me with an eARC of this book. All opinions and comments made here are my own."Don't back down, she said. Don't let them twist what you know is true"Oof let me start by saying that my review, is in no way going to do this book justice. I implore you to read this, incredibly thought-provoking memoir. "I'll tell him: I still have nightmares about you"I've never read a memoir before so really wasn't sure what to expect of the writing style going in but I absolutely loved it. It enabled us to follow Jeannie on her journey as she experienced it and it made it even more heartfelt that way in my view. Just reading the premise I knew this wasn't going to be an easy read. And boy was I right. This book really packed a punch on every page and every chapter. It's uncomfortable, but not necessarily in a bad way. I think the whole basis of the book is so interesting and it's something i've never really seen explored before. Your best friend sexually assaults you; your best friend who, up until that moment, seemed like a decent and good guy. How on earth do you reconcile the person you've spent years building a friendship with to the person who could take you apart in one night. This is a question that has haunted Jeannie since her friend "Mark" attacked her, and finally, she's decided to get answers by contacting Mark and asking him why. "why do I need his permission, anyway? I never gave mine"I know i've said this but i'm saying it again; the way in which Jeannie writes is incredible. I really felt like she took us on the journey with her. Jeannie decides to record her conversations with Mark so that she can have the opportunity to reflect on the conversations, and whilst doing so realises that she is offering him comfort and reassurance, and that his comments appear to be trying to equate their experiences. This brought such an interesting dynamic to the book; I loved the sections where she meets with her friends and reflects with them. Because whilst this book is undoubtedly about the assault, it is also about the power of friendship and the strength that you can find in others. I just found these sections so interesting because it was the other people who offered their opinions about his language and the way in which she was diminishing her feelings for him "we were only 19" etc. Women shouldn't be made to put their feelings aside for me. Especially rapists. "If he says yes, I won't thank him. I won't tell him that everything is OK between us. I won't comfort him. I am assuming he'll need comforting. Politeness isn't needed. You ruined everything, I'll tell him. You realise that, right? I can say everything"This was just such a unique and stunning memoir and perspective. Jeannie is clear throughout that she doesn't want to demonize Mark, and she doesn't. She recalls a large range of good memories that she shared with him, and in doing so, is trying to discover whether that one destroying night overpowers the rest of their friendship. Jeannie spends a large portion of the book trying to wrestle with whether she can call what happened to her 'rape' and again this is such an interesting perspective, and one you see over and over in articles and reports. I'm glad the law changed, it was about time."and then the way they talked about women: It could have been my daughter or my wife or my mother or my sister. It's like, you don't have to connect this to women in relation to you. A woman can be a woman" Although this book mostly focuses on her experience with Mark she also explores the previous occasions where she has been sexually assaulted; as a child and as an adult, and explores her feelings in how she can class previous occasions as sexual assault, but struggles with the incident with Mark. "Don't worry about protecting the guy who assaulted you. Don't worry about the feelings of the guy's family or friends. Your job is not to protect them. He screwed up. He messed up those relationships, not you. And yet, here I am, not talking to Mark's family. Part of that is fourteen years have passed. Part of that is it'd be so much work. It's so much work to come forward. And yet a lot of people blame the victims for not reporting sexual assault, as if it's entirely their responsibility to rid the world of rapists"I highlighted so many sections of this book. It is such a powerful read overall and is really well-written by Jeannie. This is such a unique read and I would love to read her other book because I just became entranced by her writing style; there wasn't anything I didn't like about it. She takes you on the journey of her throughout processes throughout the book. I really really recommend this book, and I will be desperately seeking out a physical copy when it comes out. It is unflinching, uncomfortable, honest, and powerful.
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  • thebookishlinguist
    January 1, 1970
    *Trigger warning*This book, and my review, is primarily concerned with sexual assault, rape and suicide.I would also like to highlight that anyone of any gender can be raped by anyone, and whilst this book acknowledges this, it mainly deals with men being raped by women.This book was fascinating. It was interesting, insightful and thought provoking, and I have never read a book like it. Jeannie’s memoir alternates between conversations with her partner, friends and *Trigger warning*This book, and my review, is primarily concerned with sexual assault, rape and suicide.I would also like to highlight that anyone of any gender can be raped by anyone, and whilst this book acknowledges this, it mainly deals with men being raped by women.This book was fascinating. It was interesting, insightful and thought provoking, and I have never read a book like it. Jeannie’s memoir alternates between conversations with her partner, friends and past memories, and the dialogue transcripts between her and her rapist. Named Mark for the purposes of the hiding his identity, Jeannie explores the friendship the two of them had, and strives to answer many questions surrounding the night he sexually assaulted her, mainly why he did it and what circumstances led to the rape.The monologue style of her narrative was highly effective. It allowed me to see Jeannie’s thought process and it was like glimpsing into her brain. In this way it was a slow read, but I felt this was necessary anyway as it required thought and careful consideration. I really loved the conclusion she came to over the course of the memoir, such as that the book is also about her friendships with other women, as well as her friendship with Mark.The perspective of the perpetrator was something that Jeannie wrestled with throughout the book. She worried that it would anger women as it gave him a voice, but I found this angle really interesting. On the one hand I do not believe he deserved a voice, or any attempt to justify his actions, but at the same time it was intriguing to think about how his actions had impacted on his life. And although it is not enough retribution, it was nice to find out that he has suffered some repercussions from assaulting his friend - that he has never been with a woman or in a relationship, has not started a family and has very few friends and almost no social life. I would have been disappointed to learn that he had continued with life with no consequences or thought towards his rape.I also liked the exploration of many ‘beliefs’ about rape and sexual assault. Jeannie challenges the notion that rape has to be classified by severity, and that women can believe their assault is less severe than it would have been, and is therefore less valid. It highlights that the wording in the definitions of ‘rape’ and ‘sexual assault’ have had a real impact on men and women in comprehending what has happened to them. The ‘good guy mentality’ and its’ impact is also explored by Jeannie.I would really recommend this book to everyone. It deals with a very difficult topic, but it is a discussion that needs to be had. It really highlights the different emotions that can arise following a rape, and that no one should feel invalid.Thank you to @netgalley and Prelude Books for this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Ashley
    January 1, 1970
    This is a very interesting book. At its foundation, it's a memoir focusing on a sexual assault the author experienced in high school at the hands of a very good friend. It has a twist in that the author interviews her attacker to discuss what he was thinking, why he did what he did, how it has affected him throughout his life and sharing with him how it affected her and her wondering if their friendship never was real. That's the idea of the book in a nutshell, but really it's so much more than This is a very interesting book. At its foundation, it's a memoir focusing on a sexual assault the author experienced in high school at the hands of a very good friend. It has a twist in that the author interviews her attacker to discuss what he was thinking, why he did what he did, how it has affected him throughout his life and sharing with him how it affected her and her wondering if their friendship never was real. That's the idea of the book in a nutshell, but really it's so much more than this,but it's sort of hard to describeThe book is very meta, in that Vanasco is writing about writing the book throughout the book. It starts with her approaching the idea and thinking about contacting "Mark" (and even coming up with a pseudonym "Mark" for her one time friend/attacker.) Her planning how to contact him and what she will do if he says no or yes to her project idea. As she begins talking to him on the phone, she puts the transcripts in the book and then writes about her thoughts on the conversation after re-reading the transcripts, usually upset with herself for being overly nice and grateful and reassuring. (Though I've never been sexually assaulted, I can certainly relate to being overly nice and obsequious when confronting someone--usually a guy--over upsetting behavior. I suspect a lot of women can.) She also mulls over why she has a hard time calling the assault rape and how she diminished it throughout the years.She also discusses the conversations she has with Mark with her partner, her therapist, and with different friends, asking for their opinions and thoughts. She shares her concerns about the project (mainly that women will be upset with her giving a voice to her rapist.) Each provides different insights--her therapist telling her it's not her responsibility to find a therapist for Mark, her friends pointing out that Mark keeps equating their two experiences though they are not close to being the same--things Vanasco didn't necessarily notice herself which results in more self reflection.In addition to the process of writing the book and interviewing Mark, Vanasco reflects on other sexual assaults she experienced (one by a high school teacher and the other by a friend) as well as all the stories she gets on sexual assault written by students in her creative writing classes, including the eventual suicide of one of those students who insisted she was over the rape she experienced. She ruminates on the power dynamics and the different experiences each of these students shared in their stories. It really showed how pervasive sexual assault is.Overall, this is a well-written, powerful book. Vanasco's style is unique--I've never read a memoir written in this style where the reader is let into the writing process and all the thoughts and feelings the author is going through as she embarks on the project and goes through the process of talking to Mark and writing the book. Usually it is presented as a narrative about a past event with all the questions and feelings quietly figured out behind the scenes and presented as a cohesive finished product. I think this style of basically breaking the fourth wall (literary-wise) really makes the book more powerful. I think many women will relate to Vanasco's own concerns about giving a voice to her attacker and painting him in a sympathetic light. And also the wondering about the friendship they had pre-assault. So many women are assault by people they consider friends, they must all wonder--Were we never really friends? Was he always waiting for an opportunity to do this? How could he do this if we were friends? It's just a great book. I highly recommend it.
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  • Frances Houseman
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. So much to wrestle with. So relatable and also maddening. Read it so we can discuss.
  • Kristin
    January 1, 1970
    This book was hard to read at times, but not because I didn’t enjoy it. I enjoyed it so much that I’m trying to wrap my head around the hundreds of emotions and thoughts and questions I have. People need to read this book. It changes thing. It raises questions I never thought to ask. I can only imagine how other women (and men) will be effected by it.
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  • Catherine M
    January 1, 1970
    This was one of my favorite reads of 2019 and whatever review I give it will not do it's justice. But here goes:In this memoir, Vanasco voiced all my inner questions about consent and the nuances of trauma in close relationships. It broke my freakin heart.I emailed the author immediately after reading this memoir because never before has an author struck me so close to home, putting words to things I've always reckoned with but had been unable to voice. This is a memoir n This was one of my favorite reads of 2019 and whatever review I give it will not do it's justice. But here goes:In this memoir, Vanasco voiced all my inner questions about consent and the nuances of trauma in close relationships. It broke my freakin heart.I emailed the author immediately after reading this memoir because never before has an author struck me so close to home, putting words to things I've always reckoned with but had been unable to voice. This is a memoir not only documenting one woman's confrontation with her rapist, 18 years after the occurrence, but also the deconstruction of rape culture and its effects on both the victim and the perpetrator. I am astounded with how well exemplified Vanasco illustrated the consideration of gender performance and accountability, the uncomfortable subtleties of confrontation, and the heartbreaking threads between friend and assailant. What I found most unique about this memoir was its self-aware way of deconstructing the narrative as it was being written; the author confronting her own responses and train of thoughts - that which reflect a culture that invalidates her experience, and teaches her to internalize such invalidation. This memoir is special. Give it a read, let it be a friend to you.
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  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    This was a fascinating and gripping read; I'm reading on a deadline right now, but would've churned right through this even if I weren't. Vanasco is doing something really twisty here, unpacking the book as she's writing it. It's hard to read, both because of the subject matter and because the conversations between her and Mark seem to go around and around, but it's also incredibly thought-provoking. For fans of Maggie Nelson.
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  • Y.Z. Chin
    January 1, 1970
    Vanasco reveals to you the boundaries of your thoughts and feelings. Then she takes you beyond.
  • Lisa Heins
    January 1, 1970
    We've all wondered it at some point. How can someone who seems so harmless or acts so well or is so intelligent be capable of committing what is understandably kind of an evil act and how can it happen? Vanasco's approach is fascinating. It's a memoir, yes, but an arresting piece of journalism as well.This book feels like a reckoning. Having largely avoided dealing with the sexual assault suffered at the hands of one of her closest friends, Vanasco finally confronts what's been feste We've all wondered it at some point. How can someone who seems so harmless or acts so well or is so intelligent be capable of committing what is understandably kind of an evil act and how can it happen? Vanasco's approach is fascinating. It's a memoir, yes, but an arresting piece of journalism as well.This book feels like a reckoning. Having largely avoided dealing with the sexual assault suffered at the hands of one of her closest friends, Vanasco finally confronts what's been festering for fourteen years. There's a stream-of-consciousness feeling here, where the author transcribes not only her conversations with others, but her feelings, thoughts, and reflections on past experiences with men. The most interesting element is what sets this book apart: her interviews with her attacker. Honestly, I can't say I felt like Mark added anything revelatory--Vanasco did more of the talking and his responses felt muddled in the whys and hows--though she did manage to get him to claim responsibility and remorse. In her quest for closure, it was actually her chewing on his words (and her own), gender issues, the desire to please men, power balances, questions on friendships and trust and the reliability of memory in the course of reflecting on everything that was most valuable. She toils openly about giving her perpetrator a voice in the first place, which, understandably, could be upsetting to some and could, in her search for understanding, provide a certain amount of defense for something so indefensible. But as for that all-important question about how good people can commit evil acts: sadly, this book reveals that sexual assault is disturbingly common. In the era of #MeToo, at least it's more recognizable and, hopefully, these kinds of conversations can be had more openly. A must read.
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  • Karen Barber
    January 1, 1970
    This was a fascinating, if depressing, book.Jeannie is a creative writing lecturer who specialises in memoir writing. She recounts a number of students who tell her stories of rape. Some of those have ended badly. But all of them share the common experience of someone taking away an individual’s right to control what happens to them.There’s no doubt this is a book that will strike a chord with many readers. Some will feel anger, others will empathise...but, I imagine all will feel a This was a fascinating, if depressing, book.Jeannie is a creative writing lecturer who specialises in memoir writing. She recounts a number of students who tell her stories of rape. Some of those have ended badly. But all of them share the common experience of someone taking away an individual’s right to control what happens to them.There’s no doubt this is a book that will strike a chord with many readers. Some will feel anger, others will empathise...but, I imagine all will feel a sense of amazement at the way this experience is recounted.We follow Jeannie through a very unusual experience. She decides to write about the man who raped her fourteen years ago. At the time he was a good friend, but they’ve not really spoken since. He is not the only person to have assaulted Jeannie, and he wasn’t the first, but she gets in touch with him to try and talk to him about the experience.The story itself was not one you’d expect to find pleasant reading, but I was absorbed to follow her process as she creates this book. Sometimes the narrative felt muddled, yet this reflected the subject/feelings with which she was struggling.I’m still undecided how I feel about the perpetrator of this crime, or her decision to engage with him. However, reading about her experience and the way she/those close to her respond to this was compelling stuff. There’s no easy way to view such crimes when we see who might do such things/see how common it seems to be, but it certainly stops such things being swept under the carpet and blaming victims for their experience.Thank you to NetGalley for granting me access to this prior to publication.
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  • MBP
    January 1, 1970
    (3.5) I admire the author for her courage in contacting her rapist and opening up a conversation about the rape and its effects on them both. But the writing is so convoluted. I think she's trying to craft this in such a way that the reader has an experience similar to hers when processing the rape: the thoughts are not linear; they circle and repeat. This doesn't necessarily make for a good experience for the reader. There are too many discussions with her boyfriend, her friends, her fellow wri (3.5) I admire the author for her courage in contacting her rapist and opening up a conversation about the rape and its effects on them both. But the writing is so convoluted. I think she's trying to craft this in such a way that the reader has an experience similar to hers when processing the rape: the thoughts are not linear; they circle and repeat. This doesn't necessarily make for a good experience for the reader. There are too many discussions with her boyfriend, her friends, her fellow writers, and also verbatim transcripts of her conversations with her rapist. Too many other voices; too little of her own. It's as if she doesn't know how to feel, and is looking to everyone else for cues. Still, it's brave, and very interesting to hear both voices about their friendship, the incident itself, and the aftermath.
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  • Bryony Indecisive Reader
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to NetGalley for an early copy of the book for review.I've sat and stared at the review page a few times now; I finished it a week ago and I still can't find the words to say how I feel about this book. I think it's because it's not a "normal" book for review. I can't exactly say I enjoyed the book; I don't think it's possible to use that word when reviewing a book that processes a woman's experience of rape. That said, the book obviously meant something to me because I wouldn Thanks to NetGalley for an early copy of the book for review.I've sat and stared at the review page a few times now; I finished it a week ago and I still can't find the words to say how I feel about this book. I think it's because it's not a "normal" book for review. I can't exactly say I enjoyed the book; I don't think it's possible to use that word when reviewing a book that processes a woman's experience of rape. That said, the book obviously meant something to me because I wouldn't give it 5 stars otherwise.But this battle with language is something that author Jeannie Vanasco constantly faces in her writing. For years, she has said she was sexually assaulted; it was only doing research for this book that she realised she had to call it rape. Similarly, she knows she should not be comforting "Mark" because of what he did to her, but years of friendship means that her language is almost always one of comfort than of distance.Language is not the only thing Vanasco has to battle against. Many internal conflicts tear her apart, but so does a duty to a larger goal. In an era of #MeToo and women getting to tell their story, Vansco offers her own version of her story - or, rather, her rapist's version. The initial premise of the book comes from wanting to tell a story that isn't often heard, where the memories of one moment are clouded by years of friendship, and, to add extra depth to this, she chooses to include this man's POV. However, she is plagued by the fact that she is giving a man a voice in a world that has typically stolen women's - she worries about how feminist it is to include him, what that's suggesting to the larger community that her story means. Vanasco is rarely content with her writing, unaware that the book she writes is an important, feminist masterpiece.
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  • Monica
    January 1, 1970
    I won a free copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I was a totally biased reader, given I have read so many books about rape and sexual assault this year. This book is different in that the author and victim includes (one of) her rapists' voice. She interviews him for half of the book and reflects on her feelings, things she says to him, and things he's said about the rape. I loved reading her own processing for everything. There were a lot of extra components as well, including conversatio I won a free copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I was a totally biased reader, given I have read so many books about rape and sexual assault this year. This book is different in that the author and victim includes (one of) her rapists' voice. She interviews him for half of the book and reflects on her feelings, things she says to him, and things he's said about the rape. I loved reading her own processing for everything. There were a lot of extra components as well, including conversations with her current boyfriend, friends, colleagues, etc. There may have been a little bit too much extra for me to give it 5 stars. Overall, though, it was a great read and I'd probably rate it between 4-4.5.
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  • Bernard O'Leary
    January 1, 1970
    Not so much a book as a book about a book. Most of the wordcount is spent on Vanasco wrestling with questions of authorship: how to frame the story, how to portray her rapist, how to portray herself, whether she's using writing techniques to hide from the truth. This approach will probably frustrate anyone hoping for cathartic fury, but it's the right means to her ends. Vanasco's book isn't really about rape so much as it's about living with trauma, about how we rewrite narratives when our world Not so much a book as a book about a book. Most of the wordcount is spent on Vanasco wrestling with questions of authorship: how to frame the story, how to portray her rapist, how to portray herself, whether she's using writing techniques to hide from the truth. This approach will probably frustrate anyone hoping for cathartic fury, but it's the right means to her ends. Vanasco's book isn't really about rape so much as it's about living with trauma, about how we rewrite narratives when our world falls apart. A difficult but unforgettable read.
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  • MadOnReading
    January 1, 1970
    I was lucky enough to get an advanced reading copy of Things We Didn’t Talk About When I was a Girl by Jeannie Vanasco. While this memoir is a little different from the others I’ve been reading, it truly is fantastic. In it, Vanasco recounts the sexual assaults she’s experienced while also analysing rape culture. It is a truly amazing book and I highly recommend that everyone reads it. Honestly, it is so important. (It releases October 1st, 2019.) What has struck me in particular about Vanasco’s I was lucky enough to get an advanced reading copy of Things We Didn’t Talk About When I was a Girl by Jeannie Vanasco. While this memoir is a little different from the others I’ve been reading, it truly is fantastic. In it, Vanasco recounts the sexual assaults she’s experienced while also analysing rape culture. It is a truly amazing book and I highly recommend that everyone reads it. Honestly, it is so important. (It releases October 1st, 2019.) What has struck me in particular about Vanasco’s memoir is how personal and honest it is. When writing about another person, there's always the risk of repercussions. Vanasco gets around this beautifully in her memoir, writing it as she seeks permission from those she talks about, and gives us their exact words. She also tells readers how her memories may not be reliable — but that the memories of those she speaks to also will not be reliable. Her book feels entirely honest and brave for that reason.The book itself alternates between Vanasco's narrative to us and a transcription of two different phone calls that she has with her rapist, many years after the rape occurred. It's written in 'real time' as Vanasco transcribes the phone calls, and so we see her pauses and breaks and what she thinks about, and who else she speaks to. What makes this memoir different to others about sexual assault though is Vanasco's attitude toward her rapist and her ongoing struggle to feel the anger she expects she should feel. She and Mark were very good friends for years before the rape, and so she frames her memoir as an investigation of how a good person can do something bad. This book doesn't only look at sexual assault and the power in that though. It looks at how power is inscribed in language too, and how different ideologies are constructed on the basis of power and exchanges. Vanasco delves deeply into these ideas as she talks with her friend who's a gender studies lecturer, and the conversations recounted are fascinating and enlightening. This is a hugely important book--possibly the most important book I've ever read--and I highly suggest that everyone reads it. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy.
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  • Lucy M Pozek
    January 1, 1970
    God was this good.
  • Angie
    January 1, 1970
    I completely identified with the author throughout this memoir. So much of her experience resonates with me. There are so many things to consider when going public with any reports of sexual assault, in all its many guises. And it's often not the men who crush you most. It's the women who say "well, nothing like that's ever happened to me". If, in fact, it has "happened to you" more than once, it silences you; belittles you; makes you feel even more displaced than you already do. I thank Jeannie I completely identified with the author throughout this memoir. So much of her experience resonates with me. There are so many things to consider when going public with any reports of sexual assault, in all its many guises. And it's often not the men who crush you most. It's the women who say "well, nothing like that's ever happened to me". If, in fact, it has "happened to you" more than once, it silences you; belittles you; makes you feel even more displaced than you already do. I thank Jeannie Vanasco for unashamedly telling her story. For having the courage not only to speak out, but to admit that often it's not quite so simple as hating the perpetrator. There are so many grey areas that we never acknowledge. For me, this is what makes this work stand out. It makes me want to punch the air. It makes me feel (finally) seen and heard. When someone betrays you by way of sexual assault, all of the feelings you previously had for them don't dissipate into the ether. It's not as simple as unaffected people want it to be and that is why we need this book. We need to stop teaching girls how not to be sexually assaulted and start teaching boys not to do it. Sounds simple because it is, yet here we are. Read this book, think about it, pass it on. 
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  • Jessica Klahr
    January 1, 1970
    This author created both such a new take on the #MeToo movement and an innovative way of telling a nonfiction story. There were so many different elements working together at once and it almost felt like you could see the skeleton of this book and how it came together. Not only did we get transcripts of the author’s conversations and interviews with her rapist, but she really lets you inside of her head to see how she’s processing things both as their happening and also reflecting on things in h This author created both such a new take on the #MeToo movement and an innovative way of telling a nonfiction story. There were so many different elements working together at once and it almost felt like you could see the skeleton of this book and how it came together. Not only did we get transcripts of the author’s conversations and interviews with her rapist, but she really lets you inside of her head to see how she’s processing things both as their happening and also reflecting on things in her talks with her family and friends. She brings all these different through lines together to generate a complete snapshot of her life right before and during this process. I’d never read anything like it. I also thought she handled the subject matter with such care and was brutally honest with herself and the reader and what questions were running through her head and the complexities of even taking on a project where she lets her rapist into the conversation. I deducted one star because the title really didn’t do this book justice, both because it doesn’t dive much into her family life/she had talked with her parents about assault-related incidents she’d had when she was a teenager and it just felt kind of cliche and trying to fit into the time. The ending also seemed a little rushed and I wish she’d included another chapter talking about how she thought the project went and maybe how she felt about things after a month or two.
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