What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by Sohaila Abdulali
PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN BOOKS
REVIEW BY CALLIE STEVEN
This is an excellent book.
You might say there are a lot of books about rape, gender discrimination and the patriarchy out right now – do we really need one more?
The answer is definitely and resoundingly yes. And this is one to read. The writing is lovely and clear; a light touch with a topic so heavy.
Rape is a topic we avoid, especially in ‘polite’ conversation. It’s difficult and often very personal, and for those reasons alone it’s important to have the conversation. This book really helps with that. Abdulali states in the introduction that “rape drains the light” and “I want to let some light back in”. In this clearly articulated book, she has done so.
The power of the book is in the direct and straightforward way that it confronts a culturally problematic issue. There is no flowery academic language or attempts to lessen the pain of victims.
Equally, it does not inflame and exaggerate. The tone is perfectly balanced. It’s approachable with a variety of light and shade. The mood, tempo and pace all vary to keep you engaged, with some humour thrown in for good measure.
Each chapter is based around a central issue or idea connected with rape such as “What did you expect?”, “Your rape is worse than mine” and “Good girls don’t”.
Antiquated sexual attitudes in a variety of cultures are called into question, and Abdulali has interviewed many women and men to include a whole gamut of different experiences. And just when you think reading all these stories has numbed you comes the chapter “A brief pause for horror” reminding you that rape is not just an abstract discussion (if you ever thought that at all), but a too real and devastating event that happens to far too many people. Because no one is immune to rape.
I learnt an awful lot from this book. Like the fact that medical treatments and merely going to the dentist can retraumatise survivors of sexual assault. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking to know more.
Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.