Truth Seeking in Rape Literature

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, was first published in 1999. It is about Melinda Sordino’s first year of high school. Now, starting high school can be challenging enough, but poor Melinda is dealing with a major trauma. Over the summer she was raped. And, as the title implies, she hasn’t told anyone. Not a single soul. To make things worse, everyone blames her for getting people in trouble because she called the cops before she left the party. In Speak, Melinda has to learn how to defend herself, she as to learn how to speak up about what happened to her.

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I love this book.

It is beautiful, and touching, and filled with truth.

I show the film adaptation to my high school students every year because the content and message is so important. Everyone, every single person, deserves to be HEARD. I want all of my students to know that their voice is important. And I want all of them to know that they are not alone when they face challenges, and traumas.

I wanted to bring up this wonderful book because I recently came across two novels that are also centered around young women facing the trauma of rape.

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Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens, is about Alexi Littrell, a young woman who is suffering in silence. She hasn’t told anyone what happened to her; instead, she hides in her closet and scratches the back of her neck. Thankfully (and I hope that happens to everyone who faces such a trauma, unfortunately it doesn’t) Bodee Lennoz comes into her life and helps her find the courage to speak up.

This novel was beautiful. I can’t recommend it enough. I met Courtney at SCBWI’S summer conference. This is her debut novel and it was the most powerful novel I had read in a while. To find out more about Courtney, check out her website, Quartland.

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I came across Neversaid by Carol Lynch Williams when I was visiting a coworker’s classroom. She was busy with a student so I started skimming her bookshelves. Something about the cover made me pick this book up and I am so glad that I did. I started the book that same night and finished it the next morning. I would have finished it in one setting, but it was the end of an exhausting week and I wanted to give the book my focused attention.

Neversaid is about Sarah and Annie, twins who are both dealing with a trauma. Sarah has social anxiety, among other issues because of her family dynamic, and is struggling with a romantic betrayal. In the midst of her own trials, she recgonizes that something is seriously wrong with her sister. I suspected what Annie’s problem was when I read the back cover, and it is obvious now that I’ve connected it to Speak and Faking Normal.

This book spoke to me for several reasons. I picked it up shortly after I finished reading Faking Normal, so I was ready for another book about trauma and empowerment- it did not disappoint. I was also interested in the added elements of social anxiety and the presence of two characters who are twins. (I have a twin sister. Love ya, Stephanie.) I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll just say that this is another beautiful book about healing.

And that, I suppose, leads me to the truths that are so powerful in these three books.

First, healing is possible. I know it doesn’t always feel that way, but it is. It’s not going to be easy. In fact, it will probably be one of the hardest things you ever do, but it is possible. So, please keep moving forward.

Second, none of us has to, or should, suffer in silence. Please remember that you are not alone. You are important. You are valuable. You did not deserve to be abused. No matter what you have been told, it is not your fault.

(There are some resources listed on Courtney’s page under the “Channel Your Brave” heading. Please use the link above to find help if you have been the victim of abuse.)


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