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WHAT A BODY REMEMBERS

A MEMOIR OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND ITS AFTERMATH

An honest, nuanced look at what it means to carry on after a traumatic event.

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One woman’s account of a harrowing attack in Berkeley, California, and its aftermath.

In 1984, Stefano (The Secret Games of Words, 2015) was an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. She had no luck joining a sorority, although she soon found an intriguing vocation: campus police aide, which involved “patrolling campus and surrounding neighborhoods, calling in suspicious activity.” She saw some unusual things in her time on the job, such as when she directed traffic (including stoned attendees on foot) at a Grateful Dead concert. One night, after leaving work, she was walking home alone and about to enter her apartment when she was threatened by a man with a knife. The attacker pinned her from behind, put his hand over her mouth, and pressed himself against her; he brought the knife up to her throat, but she managed to scream, and he fled. Although the author wasn’t physically injured, the book ably examines the many aftereffects of such an ordeal. She writes of a useless on-campus counseling session with a graduate student and of an unfriendly court system. Later in life, the author became a defense attorney and found herself arguing in court on behalf of people who were accused of crimes not unlike her attacker’s and grilling victims not unlike herself. The book clearly illustrates how life continues after one’s trauma and how strange, unexpected things can happen, as when the author saw her attacker in a grocery store later the same summer; stunned, she thought, “Attackers have to eat too.” The book loses some of its focus in later chapters; for example, regarding a return visit to Berkeley in 2014, she mentions some rather obvious ways that the city had changed (back in 1984, she notes, “No one blogged….There were no paninis, just sandwiches”). Still, later portions yield some potent material. What happened to the man with the knife? The answer, provided here, is chilling.

An honest, nuanced look at what it means to carry on after a traumatic event.    

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947856-95-0

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Rare Bird Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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