Review | Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay

In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, and Claire Schwartz. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to MeNot That Bad will resonate with every reader, saying “something in totality that we cannot say alone.”

Searing and heartbreakingly candid, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This should go without saying (and I knew this going in) but anyone who is a survivor of sexual assault or rape is likely to be very triggered by the stories told in this book. It took me a while to get through because it was so triggering. In it we get a wide range of stories including stories of people who were assaulted as children to people who were assaulted or harassed as adults. It is a very hard read and in some ways crafted to be uncomfortable, but it is a valuable and important collection of experiences. Some of the stories were more clinical or journalistic in a way, but the ones that touched me the most were the personal experiences. As a survivor myself who heard plenty of “it’s your fault,” reading the experiences of people with not necessarily the same experiences but many of the same emotions and thoughts was a comfort even while I hurt for these other people. Again, it’s a very hard read, but it’s also a very important one.

Happy reading!

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