- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: The New Press (November 27, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1620974738
- ISBN-13: 978-1620974735
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape Hardcover – November 27, 2018
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Praise for What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape:
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2018
There should be many more books like Sohaila Abdulali’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape. . . . It’s essential reading.”
Washington City Paper
Challenging, nuanced and altogether triumphant.”
It's that international conversation: the global analysis of rape, the globalization of the #MeToo movement, that makes Abdulali’s book especially timely, and somewhat unique.”
Powerful but accessibly written.”
A candid, straightforward manifesto on sexual assault, rape culture, and where to go from here. . . . Abdulali achieves extraordinary success with this compulsively readable and effortlessly diverse book no doubt guaranteed to become an important part of the canon on gender studies and sexual assault.”
Library Journal (starred review)
An important book working towards an important goal: meaningful and thoughtful discussion of a taboo subject.”
Abdulali brings precision, clarity, and style to her exploration of a topic often treated as more confusing than it is. . . . She approaches debates about consent, responsibility, motive, honor, and prevention with deep compassion, humor, a healthy dose of irony, and anger. . . . Her clear-eyed assessments, grace, and literary touches will make this book valuable reading for sociologists, therapists, feminists, and anyone who believes women should be able to move through the world free from fear.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
At once direct and nuanced, unblinking yet subtle, the author tackles the complexities of sexual violence head-on, rightly criticizing simplistic shibboleths. . . . The book is distinguished by its global view; Abdulali includes examples and illustrations from the United States but also from India, South Africa, and Egypt. . . . Susan Brownmiller, vitally updated.”
What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape is brilliant, frank, empowering, and urgently necessary.”
If the #MeToo campaign is to have any lasting impact . . . it will be because of books such as this.”
Preti Taneja, author of We That Are Young
The right to our own bodies is the first step in any democracy, and by that measure, women in general—especially those of us also de-valued by race, caste, or class—are still subject to an intimate dictatorship. Read the personal stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape and see how far we have come—and have yet to go.”
An essential contribution to the current conversation about rape, rape culture, and the personal toll of sexual violence in the world today. Abdulali captures the complexity of this disturbing topic with clarity, compassion, and insight . . . [and] teaches us that surviving sexual violence is essentially a creative act. In her brave book she shares her, and many other, inspiring stories of surviving, thriving, and regaining wholeness.”
Richard O. Prum, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, Yale University, and author of The Evolution of Beauty
Both hard to read and an amazing, vital read, What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape is the exact book we all need right now. Sohaila is a brilliant and beautiful writer, filled with empathy, and she is a thought leader for our generation.”
Alyssa Mastromonaco, author of Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?, co-host of #HYSTERIA podcast, and former White House deputy chief of staff
What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape places the American #MeToo movement in a global context. Sohaila Abdulali takes us from the U.S., to India, South Africa, Mexico, Kuwait, and other countries, providing examples that illustrate both the intense particularity and infuriating similarities of sexual violence around the globe. The book is courageous, angry, compassionate, informative, hopeful, and wise.”
Elizabeth A. Armstrong, professor of sociology, University of Michigan
Know this: the shock is not that Abdulali speaks frankly about rape. The shock is not that she interrogates the content, and limits, of our public discourses about rape culture with candor and warmth, with cool precision and justified rage, with wisdom and, yes, humor. The shock is that there are not more books like this. Read it, and do not stop talking.”
Sarah Krasnostein, author of The Trauma Cleaner
Such a lot of insight in this book. I wish I had written it. The more we talk, the more we learn. The more we learn, the more we can change. Read this book and be part of the change.”
Una, author of Becoming Unbecoming
About the Author
Sohaila Abdulali was born in Mumbai. She has a BA from Brandeis University in economics and sociology and an MA from Stanford University in communication. She is the author of two novels as well as children’s books and short stories. She lives in New York with her family.
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That said, there are areas in the book that may be triggering to some, and there is no way most people will be able to read this in one go. With the status (collapse) of this country right now and all of the mayhem flying around on the news, the nomination and subsequent confirmation of a perpetrator of sexual assault to the Supreme Court, even after the survivor testified and subsequently vilified, as well as just trying to get through life in general, I had to read this book in small doses. I’m glad I did because I feel like I got a lot more out of it than if I had sped through it.
There are certain areas that stood out to me so much while reading that I jotted down some notes, but in general each chapter contains very important information, even the interludes. (Interlude on a moment of terror specifically hit me hard). Here are my notes:
Sohaila Abdulali does such a fantastic job of giving the survivor a platform, and not just from a standpoint of they have a voice too, but by showing how widespread victim blaming is, how we look at everything in black and white, and how each time we mention choice we base that choice on our own perceptions without ever putting ourselves in the place of the victims. This is something that always irks me terribly, when I hear the “but she could have...”, the “but why didn’t she walk away...” etc etc. The onus needs to be on the perpetrator, NOT the victim. We need to stop scrutinizing the victim and start scrutinizing the perpetrator. Sohaila Abdulali is so right about this. So right. I know personally that until we do this I won’t be able to speak either, because what stops so many women from speaking, even years later, is the fact that they know they will be judged, even by those who don’t think they are judging.
There are so many areas that I related to, and also areas that were very revealing. It was only recently that I equated the fear I feel on the dentist chair to another fear I felt as a child, and Sohaila Abdulali explains the correlation so well. It’s the same feeling I have had with doctors and why I avoid male doctors, especially after some experiences in pregnancy and childbirth that left me feeling even more violated than I felt before.
Sohaila Abdulali was born in India and survived a brutal rape as a young woman. She went on to work as a rape counselor and public speaker, amongst other things, and also spent a lot of her academic life studying and writing about rape and rape culture. When the #MeToo movement moved to the forefront in 2017, an old magazine article she had written 30 years before where she talks about her rape resurfaced. Sohaila Abdulali then went on to write this book even though she wondered whether it was a safe thing for her to do seeing as she mainly has been able to move on in her life. I am personally so happy that she did write this book as it has been very, very helpful to me, and in general I think it should be assigned literature for all to read.
If we don’t talk about rape we will never see a change.
Thank you Sohaila Abdulali!
The author considers the difficulty of categorising this book and I agree; it’s a blend of personal experience, other peoples’ experiences and insights. What kept popping into my head as I was reading was that it’s a conversation. I loved Sohaila’s down to earth tone and how she makes this multifaceted and too often silenced experience approachable. Her writing is considered and empathetic. She doesn’t shy away from the gravity of the trauma associated with rape, yet at the same time I came away feeling hopeful and validated.
“Discussions about rape are so often irrational, and sometimes outright bizarre. It’s the only crime to which people respond by wanting to lock up the victims. It’s the only crime that is so bad that victims are supposed to be destroyed beyond repair by it, but simultaneously not so bad that the men who do it should be treated like other criminals.”
Although titled ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape’ this book is also about what we don’t talk about when we talk about rape, like how “it’s the weirdest things that can get you. Like dentophobia.”
When I was two thirds of the way through this book I’d already recommended it to a counsellor who works for my state’s rape crisis hotline and would recommend it to anyone who has experienced sexual assault, knows someone who has experienced sexual assault, works with people who have experienced sexual assault or want to read an intelligent, thoughtful book about this truly global issue. While there are stories of people from America in this book there are also those from all of those other places that aren’t America, like India, Australia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. There’s also a wonderful cross section of peoples’ experiences, from the poorest and most marginalised to well known cases and celebrities.
The whole notion of ‘institutional consent’, which holds to account both men and women, was surprisingly new to me; “you know you can get away with it because the whole system is set up to help you get away with it.”
My favourite lightbulb moment during my first read of this book (I expect it will be the first of many reads) came when I encountered an acronym that has validated my experience so much. Jennifer Freyd, writing about betrayal trauma theory in the nineties, “proposed that abusers frequently respond to accusations with “DARVO” - Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.”
There were a few sections that seemed a bit disjointed to me and details of some stories were repeated in a couple of chapters, although the repetition did serve to remind me which person’s experience I was reading about. Absent from this book was any mention of women who rape; while uncommon, it does happen, and I would be interested to hear what this author has to say about it.
This book is sociological, political, personal and contradictory. Now, contradictory may sound like a criticism but it’s not and as Sohaila expresses, rape and the way we talk about it is contradictory, so to highlight these contradictions is vital to an honest discussion. I loved/hated the “Lose-Lose Rape Conundrum”; it is so infuriatingly accurate:
“If you talk about it, you’re a helpless victim angling for sympathy. If you’re not a helpless victim, then it wasn’t such a big deal, so why are you talking about it? If you’re surviving and living your life, why are you ruining some poor man’s life? Either it’s a big deal, so you’re ruined, or it’s not a big deal and you should be quiet.”
Thank you so much to NetGalley and The New Press for the opportunity to read this book. My current activism level is set to: Need to do something positive immediately!
What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape is a book we need to be talking about more. When the author started talking about rape in India, few people were discussing the topic. Now more people are, especially with the #MeToo Movement. But culturally there’s still more to be done. This book helps explain many of these concepts. Most people know and believe that rape is bad. It gets ambiguous for some people when it comes to the actual definition of rape, consent and micro agressions, rape culture and its contributions to actual assaults, sexual harassment and more. It’s shocking to me, but not completely surprising, that many people don’t understand these nuances.
I like that the author educates the reader about the nuances of rape culture. It doesn’t come across as preachy, but more like “here’s some information that you might not know. Let me share it with you.” I think most people could learn something , if not a lot of extremely important information.
The only negative aspect of the book is that it could be a trigger for some people. So read with caution and please take care of yourself.
Overall, another extremely relevant book to continue on with the discussion of the #MeToo conversation. Give it a read, and let’s start talking!