One of our recommended books for 2019 is Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl by Jeannie Jeannie Vanasco

THINGS WE DIDN’T TALK ABOUT WHEN I WAS A GIRL

A Memoir


Jeannie Vanasco has had the same nightmare since she was a teenager. She startles awake, saying his name. It is always about him: one of her closest high school friends, a boy named Mark. A boy who raped her.

When her nightmares worsen, Jeannie decides―after fourteen years of silence―to reach out to Mark. He agrees to talk on the record and meet in person. “It’s the least I can do,” he says.

Jeannie details her friendship with Mark before and after the assault, asking the brave and urgent question: Is it possible for a good person to commit a terrible act?

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Jeannie Vanasco has had the same nightmare since she was a teenager. She startles awake, saying his name. It is always about him: one of her closest high school friends, a boy named Mark. A boy who raped her.

When her nightmares worsen, Jeannie decides―after fourteen years of silence―to reach out to Mark. He agrees to talk on the record and meet in person. “It’s the least I can do,” he says.

Jeannie details her friendship with Mark before and after the assault, asking the brave and urgent question: Is it possible for a good person to commit a terrible act? Jeannie interviews Mark, exploring how rape has impacted his life as well as her own. She examines the language surrounding sexual assault and pushes against its confines, contributing to and deepening the #MeToo discussion.

Exacting and courageous, Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl is part memoir, part true crime record, and part testament to the strength of female friendships―a recounting and reckoning that will inspire us to ask harder questions and interrogate our biases. Jeannie Vanasco examines and dismantles long-held myths of victimhood, discovering grace and power in this genre-bending investigation into the trauma of sexual violence.

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  • Tin House Books
  • Hardcover
  • October 2019
  • 360 Pages
  • 9781947793453

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$24.95

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About Jeannie Vanasco

Jeannie Vanasco is the author of The Glass Eye. Featured by Poets & Writers as one of the five best literary nonfiction debuts of 2017, The Glass Eye was also selected as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, an Indies Introduce Pick, and an Indie Next Pick. Her second book, Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl, will be published in the US and UK in October, 2019.

Her nonfiction has appeared in The Believer, The New York Times, the Times Literary Supplement, and NewYorker.com, and her essays have twice been named notable selections in Best American Essays. Her poetry has appeared in Little Star, Poet’s Country, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere, and her poetry honors include an Emerging Poets Fellowship from Poets House and an Amy Award from Poets & Writers.

She lives in Baltimore and is an assistant professor of English at Towson University.

Author Website

Praise

“With matchless grit and a vibrant mind, Jeannie Vanasco performs an absorbing autopsy on a friendship that ended in rape. Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl cuts through the silence of deep betrayal, gives contour to the aching space between forgiveness and absolution, and offers a living testament to the endless wreckage of sexual assault.”Amy Jo Burns, author of Cinderland

“Vanasco’s honesty and willingness to interrogate both her rapist and herself enthralled me from the opening paragraphs. I’d wish everyone in this country would read it.”Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me

“In Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl, Jeannie Vanasco has done something extraordinary. She explodes rape culture at the level of language, shows us how we are trapped and how we might make ourselves free. This is a brilliant book…”Emily Geminder, author of Dead Girls and Other Stories

Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl is the embodiment of what a book-length essay should be – personal, vulnerable and honest, it follows a spiraling and ever deepening path of questions – questions about the way women and girls are supposed to respond to the trauma of rape, questions about the power of language to both explain and evolve what we believe about sexual assault, and questions about who rapists are and how they become those who enact sexual violence.”Angela Pelster, author of Limber

“Jeannie Vanasco’s rigorous and nuanced investigation of crime, trauma, secrets, and the telling of our stories, applies an agile mind and penetrating insight to the enforced silences that surround rape and its aftermath.” —Lisa Locascio, author of Open Me

“Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl explores the common experience of rape with uncommon nuance and intense tenderness. In the process, the book also unexpectedly becomes a warm celebration of female friendship. Vanasco reveals the boundaries of your thoughts and feelings. Then she takes you beyond.”YZ Chin, author of Though I Get Home

“A modern classic of nonfiction..” –Sophia Shalmiyev, author of Mother Winter

Discussion Questions

1. What do you think of the title Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl? Why do you think it is that we don’t discuss many of the issues raised in the book? Do you think things have changed at all since you were a kid?

2.  Jeannie Vanasco’s memoir dovetails with many concerns raised by the #MeToo movement. Did you find you were reading her memoir in the context of this movement?

3. How do you feel about Vanasco including Mark’s perspective in the narrative? Did your feelings about his inclusion change as you read?

4. Vanasco worries that readers might think her conversations with Mark are a “performance of gender” or that she spends too much time humanizing him. Did you have these feelings?

5. Outside of the interviews with Mark, Vanasco’s partner, Chris, offers a male viewpoint. How might the book have been different if not for Chris’ perspective?

6. Vanasco’s female friends play an important role in the narrative. What do you think this memoir might generate in terms of conversations amongst women? Did you talk to your female friends about this book?

7. Many of the college students Vanasco teaches have experienced sexual assault. Do you think this book would benefit readers in their teens and early twenties?

8. Vanasco’s first memoir, The Glass Eye, deals with issues of mental illness. In Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl, Vanasco states that this fact might make readers worry that she is an unreliable narrator. Did you have this concern while reading?

9. Vanasco struggles to define what happened to her as rape, but ultimately decides to use the word rape. Do you think that this decision represents an important moment in the memoir? Do you think there is a strong difference between the terms “sexual assault” and “rape”?

10. Throughout the book, transcripts of Vanasco’s conversations with Mark are interspersed between sections of reflection, memory, research, and more. How did this construction influence your reading of the book? What did it mean to you to be able to read the transcripts directly?