Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Know My Name by Chanel Miller is a heart wrenching and thought provoking memoir of Chanel's highly publicized sexual assault, how she processed her feelings in order to heal, and her experience with the criminal justice system. Her words are eloquent and honest. While I read her words, I could feel her pain. It is evident that she put her heart and soul into this beautiful memoir.
Chanel's writing is beautiful, poetic, and honest. Her story bounces back and forth between her present situation and her childhood, but it does so in such a lovely way. In order to fully enjoy memoirs, the reader has to understand that our past experiences shape us and while you are intrigued by the main premise of this book, you must understand where Chanel came from and why she is who she is. There are few things that I can say about this book that have not already been said by Chanel herself and others who have reviewed this memoir. Instead, I will share two of my favorite quotes that exemplify that we are not the worst of what has happened to us and that even when horrible times feel like they will never end, eventually they will.
"I think of our backyard pond growing up. Of the goldfish we'd bring home, bobbing in plastic bags on the surface of the water. My dad explained they needed time to adjust to the temperature of the pond before being released. If such a small creature required such care, imagine the complex process a victim must work through in order to integrate back into daily life. There is no right way, there is only listening to what is good and comfortable for your body. Maybe now you are terrified, bobbing inside the clear plastic container around you, thinking, I am trapped, this is not how it's supposed to be. Just remember: the temperature is slowly changing, you are adjusting. You will make it into that pond. With a little more time, you'll be free."
"No matter how awful and long your journey, I can promise you the turn. One day it will lift."
If you have read this one, I would love to hear your thoughts. Memoirs can be a hard genre to review. I tend to treat these reviews with compassion and thoughtfulness because these words were most likely very difficult for the author to put on paper, let alone print it for the masses. Were there parts of this book that were a bit repetitive? Sure. But put yourself in Chanel's shoes. The criminal justice system is repetitive, hence the ole' law enforcement saying "hurry up and wait." For Chanel, her life was repetitive for years and all she wanted to do was break through it. I am on a bit of a soap box, but remember to be compassionate when you read a memoir and remind yourself that there is a person behind these words.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller is one of those books that everyone should read. Being able to learn from a sexual assault victim's perspective is invaluable. Purchase this book. Read it slowly and thoughtfully. Then pass it along. Keep passing it until everyone you know has read it. No matter who you are, victim or not, this memoir is powerful and teaches us to think less about ourselves and more about others. If everyone did that, maybe things like this would not happen, but we have to start somewhere.
As always, happy reading!