A memoir to learn by:
Twenty years ago a book titled SPEAK arrived on the bookstore and library shelves and exploded into the definition of young adult literature. It talked about rape. It talked about rape culture. It created a space for conversations and it demanded attention and it pushed back hard at the culture of boys and men and sex and consent.
The woman who penned that courageous and powerful book has another twenty years under her belt and she has evolved from strong enough to write and publish that book to a new place where she is done with the nonsense and done with the shame game and baby, she is ready to take on all comers. So strap in and get ready to read an incredibly transparent, honest, shame-free memoir about her roots, her father's ghosts and drinking which led to domestic violence, her mother's strength and determination, and those dark tunnels we all come through.
Get ready to think differently. Thanks to Laurie's courageous and phenomenal voice and clarity, her recognition that it's time to throw off the chains of so much stupidity and so many social "get out of jail free cards" that have been given in the past, we are privileged to hear her truth. She shared this truth to lead us to face that it's time to say "Enough." No more 5 or 6 or 10 or 13 or 15 year olds girls need to wonder if they should tell someone about what just happened to them. No more girls and young women need to blame themselves. No more holding onto the pain that steals souls.
This is Laurie Halse Anderson who got away from the Georgetown University professor. This is Laurie Halse Anderson who went to Denmark to find some decency and normal. This is Laurie Halse Anderson who has gone through the pain, the shame and the despair and has climbed up and out of it all.
According to her husband's count, Laurie has spoken before one million students/teachers. She has heard countless stories of girls telling their truth..you know..the ones where the tears are dropping so fast no one can catch them all. She has cared. She has had the strength to hear them and speak for them and now she is all set to forge a new normal.
She has put males and their anatomy on notice. Not while Laurie is on the planet. No more. Laurie spoke. Now she is shouting. Thank God.
This should be a One Country One Read. A One World One Read.
304 pages 978-0670012107 Ages 14 and up
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!
Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she's never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society's failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #MeToo and #TimesUp, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice-- and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.--from the publisher
From Richie Partington:
“As I walk this land with broken dreams
I have visions of many things
But happiness is just an illusion
Filled with sadness and confusion”
-- Jimmy Ruffin, “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted”
“in the name of love
When he was eighteen years old, my father
saw his buddy’s head sliced into two pieces,
sawn just above the eyebrows by an exploding
brake drum, when he was in the middle
of telling a joke.
Repairing planes, P-51s, on an air base in England,
hungry for a gun, not a wrench, my father
pushed an army-issue trunk into his mind
and put the picture of his friend’s last breath
at the bottom of it.
Then they sent him to Dachau.
Not just him, of course, his whole unit,
and not just to Dachau but to all of the camps
because the War was over.
But not really.
Daddy didn’t talk to me for forty years
about what he saw, heard, what he smelled
what he did about it;
one year of silence for every day of the Flood,
one year for every day from Lent until Easter.
The air in Dachau was clouded with the ash
from countless bodies, as he breathed it in
the agony of the dying infected my father,
and all of his friends. They tried to help
the suffering, following orders, took out their
rage in criminal ways while their officers
turned away. My father filled the trunk
in his head with walking corpses who sang
to him every night for the rest of his life.
One day Daddy watched a pregnant woman
walking slowly down the road near the gates of Dachau
he matched his steps to hers,
then stopped as she crouched in a ditch
and birthed a baby.
My father, a kid on the verge of destruction,
half-mad from the violence he’d seen
desperate to kill, to slaughter, to maim,
watched that baby slip into the world
between her momma’s blood-slicked thighs
and it healed him just enough
that he wept.
He wrapped the newborn in her mother’s apron
and helped them both to the Red Cross tent
set up for survivors.”
Twenty years after the publication of SPEAK, Laurie Halse Anderson now shares the true life stories that inspired her powerful, unforgettable YA classic. Told in the same prose poetry style as SPEAK, SHOUT is the verse memoir of Anderson’s life, “highlighted” by her rape at age thirteen. There are stories here about her parents and grandparents; about lessons Anderson learned in becoming a writer; and stories about her interactions, as a well-known author, with young people.
I first read SPEAK in my capacity as the children’s/YA buyer for a small bookstore chain headquartered in the North Bay community I called home. I embraced and championed the story of Melinda Sordino’s freshman year of high school, and I hand-sold many, many copies to young people and adults. Beginning a couple of years later, as a teacher’s assistant at the local middle school, I read SPEAK aloud to a succession of eighth-grade English classes.
SPEAK is a cautionary tale that all middle schoolers should read in advance of being tossed into the cauldron of high school. It is a book that has saved lives, and wrong-minded administrators who have tried to censor or ban it--and there have been plenty of them over the years--should be brought up on educational malpractice charges.
Two decades after first reading SPEAK, and after traversing mountains of other books, I still consider SPEAK one of my absolute favorite YA reads.
I want to now get the word out about SHOUT, both to today’s young people and to twenty years’ worth of Laurie Halse Anderson fans who were as moved by Melinda Sordino’s wry observations and travails as I was.
For all of us old fans, there are scores of ‘Wow!” moments in SHOUT when we encounter the real people, situations, and events in Laurie Halse Anderson’s life that she incorporated into SPEAK. There’s also a good measure of Anderson’s humor here, such as a hysterically funny scene involving translation gone awry when Anderson struggles to learn the subtleties of a new language as a high school exchange student in Denmark.
While providing valuable nuggets about the craft of writing and her early stumblings, Anderson shares the roadmap of her path to becoming a writer. We learn how she spent time working as a reporter. Her observations of an unrepentant sexual predator, whose trial she covered, melded with her nightmares and memories as a rape victim, provided the impetus for writing SPEAK.
After the book was published, Anderson was named a National Book Award finalist and, in another pivotal moment, grasped by observing fellow finalist Walter Dean Myers, her solemn responsibility to her young readers.
Taking this lesson to heart, Anderson has stood on the front lines for the past two decades, teaching young people the principles behind what has more recently come to be the #metoo movement:
a what? of teens
a wince of teens
mutter of teens
an attitude, a grumble, a grunt
a disenchantment of teenage girls
a confusion of teen boys
when I talk about Speak to a class
or an auditorium full of teenagers
there’s always that guy
in the back row wearing a jersey
soccer or lacrosse or football
he’s a good boy, he asks
the first real question --
‘Why was Melinda so upset?
I mean, it wasn’t a bad guy with a gun
who dragged her down an alley;
she liked the guy, danced with him,
she kissed him,
so what’s the big deal?’
a kiss of boyfriends
a dance of rapists
what’s the big deal?
asked at every kind of school
all over the country
curious boys honestly inquiring
their friends squirming
a quest of knights errant
a smirk of dudes
the question is born out of true confusion
no one ever told him the rules of intimacy
or the law, his dad only talks about condoms
with a ‘don’t get her pregnant’ warning
his mom says ‘talk to your father’
so he watches a lot of porn
to get off
to be schooled
porn says her body is territory
begging to be conquered
no conversation required
you take what you want
an occupation of men
those boys taught me
to talk about consent
get real about consequences
respect the room enough
to tell the truth
cuz, lordy lord, they need it
other boys pull me aside for a private
conversation, they say one of their friends,
a girl who was raped
is depressed and cutting and getting high
to forget what happened, they want to help
make it better, they want to kill the guy who did it
they’re trying to be righteous, honorable
but they’re not sure how
a vengeance of puppies
some boys talk about being abused by men
of becoming a locker room target
of never using the bathroom in school
not even once in four years
cuz that’s a dangerous place
if you’re not an alpha running with the right pack
a few become bullies
tired of being teased, beat on,
made to feel small, left out in the cold
they attack the quiet boys
the isolated, who walk in the shadows
some of the bullies are homebred monsters
built by Frankendads, limb by limb
filled with regret and juiced by shame
a retribution of scars
my husband did the math, calculated
I’ve spoken to more than a million teens
since Speak came out, those kids
taught me everything, those girls
showed me a path through the woods
those boys led me
to write Twisted,
my song of admiration
to young men paying the price
for their fathers’ failures
the collective noun I’m seeking is ‘curiosity’
we have a curiosity of boys
waiting on the truth
and when their questions
the suffering begins for
an anguish of victims”
Laurie Halse Anderson concludes SHOUT with nods to some of her other works and characters, as she shares bittersweet experiences of her parents’ final days. I love how the book begins and concludes with the two people who brought her into the world.
As noted in a recent New York Times article, Laurie Halse Anderson was a true pioneer in writing for and talking with young people about sexual abuse and consent. SHOUT left me breathless and teary-eyed. As the brother to a sister, the father to a daughter and, now, the grandfather to a granddaughter, I urge you to read and widely share SHOUT.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
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