She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford’s campus. Her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed, where it instantly went viral–viewed by eleven million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. Thousands wrote to say that she had given them the courage to share their own experiences of assault for the first time.
Now she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words. It was the perfect case, in many ways–there were eyewitnesses, Turner ran away, physical evidence was immediately secured. But her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios. Her story illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicts a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shines with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.
What is Know My Name about?
Know My Name is Chanel Miller’s story, in her own words. It is not limited to the events of the trial, nor the events that preceded it. Miller’s story is about how she perseveres, what she does to make herself feel a bit better. It’s a story about love and familial devotion, a story about caring for one’s self and fighting the forces of the world that aren’t fair.
CW: This book naturally touches very heavily on the topic of sexual assault. The assault is described from Chanel Miller’s perspective, as well as described as it was by the courts and papers at the time.
This book is not simply an account of Chanel Miller’s side of the story, it is also a memoir about who Miller is. Miller’s writing brings out the clear talent that was already there and describes beautiful and loving relationships between friends and family.
Miller doesn’t pull any punches. She describes each breakdown, each tear, each moment with perfect emotional clarity. She describes how she felt to be belittled, reduced, and made only a victim. Her fear, her anger, her frustration, her depression; all of these emotions are tangible. But Miller also brings to life the moments of hope and happiness she felt along the way, and makes you want to cheer for her when she gets back up. She doesn’t pretend to be unbiased, but her side of the story is welcome and necessary to read. Seeing just how much of an impact these events had on her, and on every person she cared for, is powerfully moving.
There are times where Miller’s writing gets away from her. A powerful writer, and with beautiful words, Miller knows how to paint a metaphor. But even the best of writers sometimes push their metaphors a bit too far, and I think doing so occasionally hurt the powerful message Miller was putting on the page.
This book is moving and powerful. Included at the end is the victim impact statement that brought out the support and emotion that Miller didn’t realize needed to be expressed. I remember when this case was unfolding, watching it every step of the way and wanting so badly for Miller–then as Emily Doe–to get the justice she deserved. To experience the whole thing from Miller’s point of view was incredible. Her story was the one we should have been following all along, and I am amazed at how strong her story is. There is nothing about this book that is not inspiring, empowering, and motivating at the same time.