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

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 14 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

This book was hard hitting and I comfortable to read as it’s based on being sexually assaulted and raped.
Thought provoking and interesting and the author has so much strength to write this and share her story.
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I appreciate this is the author’s memoir but I struggled to have any sympathy with her.  I understand what happened to her has now been defined as rape, but put into the context of rape as the general population would think, then it’s almost insulting to those victims.  The other part of the memoir I found incredible was the amount of  rapes she had been victim to from different perpetrators in her relatively short life.  I’m sorry that these things happened to her but the incident at college possibly clouded the main storyline of her and Mark and made me feel ‘not another one’. I’m sure the process of contacting ones rapist might be cathartic but I’m not sure it makes a great book..  just not my cup of tea.
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This is an incredibly hard review to write. You see, on the one hand I absolutely loved this book but on the other, I know that this won't be for everybody.
This chronicles the author's attempt at reaching out to the friend who sexually abused her in the past. And with that comes a lot of triggering content that I don't know many will be able to cope with.
I myself had to put the book down many times, not because of the description of the actual assault but because of everything that came with it that felt all too familiar - the shame, the guilt, the confusion. Because it wasn't some stranger in a dark alley that took advantage of this author, but a friend. Someone she trusted. 
And it's harrowing listening to his side of the story in this novel, especially since there are times when he is manipulating the answer and other times where he openly admits to the assault.
It's a very hard book to read and rate. 
But if you feel comfortable going into this book and experiencing such a story, I encourage you to do it. It is in part cathartic, or at least that's what it felt like to me. 
Definitely heartbreaking but also a testament to the fact that we are not meant to be victims forever. We are survivors.
A stellar book idea and overall so necessary in this world where everything is painted black and white when really, most of what women feel when it comes to this issue is the gray.
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Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was Girl is definitely the most thought provoking book I have read this year.. Jeannie Vanasco is extremely brave write a memoir that leads her to getting back in contact with one of her best friends who raped her. 

The book is unlike anything I’ve ever read before and challenged what I thought I knew about victims of sexual assault.. It shows that no two experiences are the same and that the feeling that victim have after the event can be extremely complicated. It highlights the blame culture that is sometimes associated with victims and  Jeannie herself constantly worries that she’s not angry enough and constantly seems to forgive and accept her rapists behaviour and comments,

The format of the book was also interesting as much of it was transcripts between Jeannie and her rapist. These conversations and the dialogue where Jeannie then analysed these conversations was quite repetitive but I felt it emphasised that no amount of talking could take away what has happened and her experiences.

This is not an easy beach read and I did find that it took me a little longer to read it than I would usually, however, it is definitely worth a read and I would recommend it to anyone who was interested in the #METOO movement and giving the victims of sexual assault a platform to share their experiences.
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This book was hard to read in the sense that the topic it dealt with, rape and sexual assault, is heavy and takes time to process but other than that, it was a pretty easy book to get through.
I especially loved the monologue style of writing the author has used in which she has just put in all her thoughts and feelings into the book, no matter if she thought that they undermined her position so as to give the readers a complete sense of what she went through and still faces today.

This book made me think a lot. There's a lot I haven't seen yet and there's a lot I fail to see even when it is there. This book really helped me grow and understand things from her perspective. 
I usually find it impossible to read such books and hence, try to avoid them since they usually are too heavy for me but somehow, I made it through this one and I am glad I did because it did impact my thinking patterns in a lot of ways. 

Every rape story is different, every victim handles things differently and through this story, I learnt how Jeannie vanasco processed it. 
Every story matters and I am glad to have read this one.
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A brilliant thought-provoking book centring a woman getting back in touch with her rapist.

Told in a brilliantly unique way - we follow Jeannie as she begins to write her book, flesh out the facts and come face to face with her dearest childhood friend, who just so happens to be her rapist.
I laughed, I cried, I  studied my relationship with men and analyzed my own relationship with abuse.

This was a brilliant read. I would recommend to everyone.
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3 for neutral.  I could not finish this book, even though I feel the subject is an important one and needs to be written about and read about.  I just didn’t like the way it was written and it took my attention away from what I was trying to read, making it impossible to get through parts.  I will update review, if it was a mood thing, and I’m able to finally get into it and finish it, but think it may have been more of a writing style issue on my part than the mood I was in at times I tried.
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I received this book for free from NetGalley.

I knew that this would be a hard book to read. It's obviously going to be full of sensitive content. 
Unfortunately I was unable to finish it. 
The content matter was tough, but expected. What I really struggled with was the writing style and constant editing. It felt false with the author editing her own transcript of a conversation, I just couldn't get on with it.
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A tough subject with a very honest real outcome. I don’t know if I could have been that brave or strong to look at never mind have a conversation with anyone who would have attacked me. 
Outstanding writing.
Thank you to both NetGalley and Prelude Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my review
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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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This is such an important book. I've never read anything like it - transcripts of a phone conversation between the author and her high school friend who raped her fourteen years earlier. It is an uncomfortable read and I think that's exactly why everyone should read it. I found it uncomfortable when people asked me what I was reading, but that's exactly why books like this need to exist - so that people have these uncomfortable conversations around the widespread issue of sexual assault and rape, particularly by friends or acquaintances.
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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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This book is a beautiful and one of a kind memoir about sexual assault and friendship between the author and her fellow high school friend. The book is written many years after the time of an incident and shows the impact it had on the author's life as well as the journey to understanding the reasons and psychology behind the assault. During the book, the author describes her thoughts and make contact with the person who was responsible for her trauma. It's a powerful and honest story. I especially enjoyed the moments in which the author fight with herself about her thoughts -  if she should be thinking like that if she is even allowed to.  
The book is pretty unique as it alternates between conversations with her friends, phone calls transcriptions, past memories, and author's thoughts during the time of writing the book.
I would recommend this position to everyone.
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Unfortunately Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl was a DNF for me. I had high hopes for this book so I’m extremely disappointed. I found it incredibly hard to stay engaged, the writing style was just not for me. It was choppy, disjointed and very repetitive. 
It was a brave topic but the execution was lacking, it read more like a Q&A with notes for a book someone plans to write, rather than an actual book.
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This is a book which is particularly relevant today when so many women feel empowered to speak out following the 'Me Too' campaign.  It is a well written powerful memoir and will resonate with many women and for Jeannie obviously a cathartic exercise.  It is tough reading but nonetheless an honest thought provoking book on a difficult subject.   My only criticism is that it is rather over long and meandering in place but it is not a deterrent.
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This book was incredibly interesting. How often do survivors of sexual assault get to, or more would even want to, have the perpetrator willingly be interviewed about the experience. Jeannie's story had me intrigued. This book was captivating and real.

The whole choice to write a story in which you are giving a voice to the perpetrator is something I have never seen done before. The factors involved in Jeannie's sexual assault makes for a case that I haven't seen talked about, as she mentions. It's a new side to the #MeToo movement. 

In my opinion, Mark doesn't deserve to be able to share his experience of the assault. In my mind, no matter how much she tried to validate and humanise him, Mark is still a monster to me. Maybe that means that I didn't understand the book, despite this I was invested and I wanted to keep reading. But I hated Mark, I hated the way he felt the need to equalise their experiences as though he was the victim in the scenario. Sorry Buster, but you're the only one in the situation that raped someone. Your experiences are not equal. 

The format of the story follows the conversations that Jeannie has with Mark,  intertwined with her experiences of life following the sexual assault. At times I found the format hard to follow, especially in the transcribed conversations, in which I'd have to flip back to the last segment to remember what was last spoken between them.

The content is hard to digest in terms of feeling the anger and overwhelming emotions because it's made glaringly clear that Jeannie's experience is not a rare occurrence. At one point in the book Jeannie mentions that whenever she meets a man one of her first thoughts are 'has he ever sexually assaulted someone?'. Her mentions of her students that write about and disclose their own experiences of sexual assault. It makes you reflect on your own life and the people that you know. Has someone I know sexually assaulted someone? Has someone I know been a victim of sexual assault?

I admire Jeannie, and I love that she was surrounded by so much support in the process of writing this book. I loved that people thought she was brave, I love that people were interested. Because I was enthralled with her life. The supportive women that Jeannie has in her life is exactly the type of feminist shit that I live for. 

Jeannie's story is going to make a difference in people's lives. And I am glad that I took the time to read her memoir and learn about her experience.

Thank you Prelude Books for sending me a copy to read!
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‘Things we didn’t talk about when I was a girl’ is infuriating. It’s sort of a memoir with some journalist qualities, written by Jeannie Vanasco, and it’s written beautifully. The fury comes from her descriptions, her examinations of her encounters with men which have involved, or ended with, sexual assault. It’s the stories from her friends and students (she’s a lecturer in creative writing: memoir) of their encounters with men which have involved, included or ended in sexual assault. 

Unwanted contact, intrusive conversations, a refusal to listen to the clear signals, all the way to rape, either penetration with fingers or penis. All of them resulting in the woman involved feeling violation, shame, humiliation. 

Vanasco’s focussed one particular sexual assault - that from her ‘friend’ at high school. She had been drinking and he and another friend carried her to the basement to sleep it off. Except her ‘friend’ assaulted her instead. He raped her and while he was doing that and she was sobbing, he told her she was dreaming. The worst thing about that is that I know every woman has a similar story to tell.

This specific assault is discussed in a detached way for some, if not most of the book, while Vanasco examines different perspectives and almost seems to ‘try on’ emotions for size, wondering aloud why she isn’t angrier. I thought that was really interesting - the dissection of how she’s feeling, and how she feels in relation to her attacker. He dropped out of her life soon enough after that, but they did remain friends, at least for long enough for her college boyfriend to meet and dislike him. The lens is through the #meToo movement, as Jeannie worries that her story is too like the others and will be lost among the throng. I hope it isn’t, and I don’t think it will be, mainly because I think everyone’s stories need to be heard but also this is a different enough view, almost scientific, to stand apart. 

Quite a lot of chapters are spent discussing how he feels, the impact it had (or didn’t have) on his life, via  the means of telephone calls and other communication channels. These are transcribed by Vanasco and critiqued by her and her friends, also writers. I found myself rooting for her, shouting at her for apologising (!) for taking up his time, nodding along when he said he was hurt too, or drunk as well. Thankfully, her friends speak for me and a discussion takes place around his feelings,how important his perspective is and so on. 

I fear that it may reach only the women who recognise and feel what she feels though - for maximum impact it needs to reach the attackers and would be rapists of society, the ones who gauge their self worth on how many women they’ve assaulted, who see women as objects to be owned, dominated and bent to their will or else. Please, if you have that guy in your friend group (or heck, if you ARE that guy), read this/get him to read this book. He might start to understand what impact that 30 second encounter has for the woman on the receiving end.
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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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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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Overall opinion of the book:

Okay, as I always do with memoirs, I found it difficult in this case to ‘review’ this book. After all, what right do I have to ‘judge’ a person’s experiences? I will say though, I connected to this book on a deeper level – as I’m sure many women out there will.

What I particularly enjoyed about Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl was the way in which it was written. Dozens of little vignettes interspaced with call transcripts and emails between Jeannie and ‘Mark’. I think this style of prose lends itself well to the subject matter – allowing the reader to read in smaller chunks, allowing time to process etc.

This book is definitely one for out time. With the #MeToo movement having a cataclysmic impact on the lives of celebrities, with historical offences coming out of the woodwork, it is so important that we never forget that these awful things not only happen to people we see on our screens, but our friends and neighbours too.

This relatively short book sure packs in a lot of deep and possibly triggering topics;
Rape
Mental Health
Friendship
Suicide
and more. So if you’re someone that find these topics difficult to read about, just be cautious.

Final though:

A necessary book, though difficult to read, that reminds us as humans that we should not have to downplay our experiences and that social view, while they have come a long way, still have a journey to undertake. Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl by Jeannie Vanasco is available right now if you’d like to get your hands on it.
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