This memoir in verse by bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson gripped me on page one and still hasn't let me go weeks after reading it. She begins by letting us know...
"this book reeks
of my fear
of depression's black dogs howling
and the ancient shames riding
my back, their claws
And it does. Part memoir and part rallying cry, Anderson explores her own history as a sexual abuse survivor and the thousands of other survivors she's met since. She dissects our culture in unflinching verse, focusing the lens of the #MeToo movement. It begs the question that if speaking up is not enough, when will we start shouting?
The first half of the novel is primarily about her life from childhood years up until the time she started writing her bestselling novel "Speak" (1999). She pulls back the curtain to show us tumultuous family dynamics, a life changing trip abroad, farm work, going off to college, and beginning the catharsis of writing a novel about her pain. I found her poetry to be raw and affecting. With each snapshot of a poem, I could pick up all the threads of her life and weave them together.
The second part of the novel is where I think Anderson truly shines. Powerful poems convey the rage and sorrow she feels at the plight of so many. She begs us to come together. To be safe, to be educated, to protect and uplift each other, to insist upon change. She begs us to shout out, for our own good and for the good of others. She writes,
"After you shout
your open mouth
will breath in
the light for which
I found this book to be a tough but entirely necessary read. Due to the subject matter, it may be triggering for those who have experienced sexual violence. This is her story, but it belongs to so many others as well.