There Are So Many Books About Sexual Violence and It’s Depressing But It’s About Damn Time

In an age of high-profile sexual assault allegations and #metoo, at a time when whisper networks are becoming less whispery, it’s hard to know how to feel. Should we feel optimistic because men (at least men in power) are finally being forced to face consequences? Disillusioned because there really are no safe spaces for women? Frustrated by those to whom all of this comes as a surprise?

Feeling all of these things simultaneously, I’ve mostly kept my head down. After all, I have a book to edit, a book that is perhaps the biggest #metoo I have ever shared.

I’ve been working on this book for the past seven years. At first, it was a book about using sex writing to fix myself. Four years in, it shifted, becoming a story about the revelation that I was neither broken nor dysfunctional. That none of us are. It transformed into a closer look at issues of forced sexualization, medicalization, consent, and rape culture. They are topics that are always timely. Again, it feels more timely than ever.

I signed with an agent over a year ago. This past April, Cleis Press bought my book. We made the announcement in May. I handed in my completed manuscript in September.

Earlier this month, I received my editor’s feedback and started editing and rewriting. I stopped taking on new projects so I could focus on this part of the process. I am so thrilled to have an agent and an editor who believe in this book. I am determined to turn around my edits before Christmas, making this book as strong as possible so that readers connect to it and believe in it, too.

Though the edits are going well, life hasn’t been without its distractions. There have been school closures I’d completely forgotten about, leaving me responsible for entertaining a lunatic toddler. There has been the cancellation of a family vacation. There was a day when our radiators spewed dirty water for two hours straight, flooding the first floor of our house. Such is life.

But I’ve leaned on my parents and my in-laws. I’ve started listening to white noise tracks on YouTube. I’ve been attending Shut Up & Write sessions at a local café. And when all else has failed, I’ve locked myself in the bathroom or have waited until after my daughter has gone to bed and I’ve read other books by brilliant women who have tackled the same subject matter. Because when I can’t be writing, I can at least be inspired.

In June, Roxane Gay wrote Hungerabout her relationship to her body, and about the role that sexual violence played in it. It was hands down the best book published in 2017. At about the same time, I picked up a review copy of Katie Green’s Lighter Than My Shadow when I was at BookExpo America. This graphic memoir of the author’s struggles with an eating disorder and with depression, and of the sexual abuse that played a part in all of it, shook me. Last month, I read Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties. Her short stories portrayed a vision of strong female sexuality that is rarely shown. And this month, I read Myriam Gurba’s Meana lyrical, coming-of-age memoir from a self-described “queer, mixed-race Chicana” that is unflinching in its honesty, even in the ways in which it tackles female sexuality and sexual violence.

It seems that every year, more books appear to unveil that vision of reality women always knew existed, but about which we were always encouraged to keep our mouths shut.

Well, it’s about damn time.

I can’t wait to be a part of that.

If you’d like to learn how to more effectively tell your own stories, I’ll be teaching creative nonfiction again through The Writers Circle, starting in January. Register now.