“Know My Name” by Chanel Miller recalls the publicized case of sexual assault that led to a guilty verdict, but a sentencing of six months. Miller walks readers through every step of the case, sharing the trauma and grief she and her family experienced as she made the decision to press charges and illuminating what victims face in a court process.

"Know My Name: A Memoir," by Chanel Miller. Photo by Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia
"Know My Name: A Memoir," by Chanel Miller. Photo by Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia

Chanel Miller’s “Know My Name” is one of the most powerful pieces of writing I’ve ever read. I had wanted to read this book for a while since reading her victim impact statement. I knew from that letter that she was well-spoken, and I wanted to further bear witness to what she went through, but I was not prepared for just how beautiful, raw and evocative this memoir would be.

Miller’s story is one of many, but it is a rare gift to be able to put the emotions of such an experience into words that so accurately encapsulate how she felt. In “Know My Name” Miller not only speaks her own power and experience, but gives a voice to other survivors as well.

She manages to put all the complicated, deep feelings she has into words in a way that is real and understandable. Miller’s writing carries us through the story, her story, bringing us through every breakdown and triumph, and showing us that trauma and recovery is not a linear process.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

The chapter describing the final verdict is one of my favorite chapters of any book. I know what’s coming, and yet, I still read the page in apprehension, scanning the words and flipping the pages quickly as it built up to the verdict. Miller brought the readers into the courtroom with her, evoking all the anxiety of that moment with her pacing and wording. The judge’s sentencing came much the same way. As the story builds to that six month sentence, I kept thinking that this should go differently, that it had to end differently.

Miller’s book gives a clear, in-depth look at the court process from the perspective of a victim, something that is equal parts enlightening and frustrating.

Through every piece of the story, Miller’s words reclaims the power of herself. This book is not just an account of an assault, it is a testament to the woman who survived it and exists beyond it. Emily Doe is no longer reduced to telling the narrative of one night, through the limiting questions on a witness stand. In “Know My Name” we come to truly know Chanel Miller on her own terms.

-- Rebecca Mariscal

I expected “Know My Name” to be relatively short; a brief retelling of Brock Turner’s inexcusable actions and their aftermath from the perspective of Chanel Miller. But only a couple of pages into the memoir it became clear that Miller deliberately writes a long, in-depth book about her experience. The most obvious reason for this is that Miller and her family (and all survivors) experienced so much more than what was covered in the media. While this was a relatively high-profile case, the general public knew only fragments of the story.

The second reason that this book is 363 pages is Miller wants her readers to understand that she and all survivors are complex, unique humans, just like everyone else. Miller is a survivor but that does not solely define her. Miller shows that she was and is a full, powerful person.

While heart-wrenching, frustrating and difficult to read at times, this book is a must-read.

-- Rachel Fergus

Next month’s read

This upcoming month we will be reading “Home Fire” by Kamila Shamsie. This adaption of “Antigone” follows two sisters dealing with the lasting impact of the father and brother’s choices. After raising her twin siblings following their parent’s death, Isma is finally able to focus back on her studies in America, but is still distracted with worry for Aneeka, who she must leave behind in London, and their brother, Parvaiz, who disappeared after following in their jihadist’s father’s footsteps.

Questions to consider while reading:

  1. How does Isma’s role as guardian following her mother’s death impact her relationship with her siblings?

  2. How do the siblings differ?

  3. How does their father’s legacy impact the characters of the book, from Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz to Eamonn?

  4. How do Isma and Eamonn’s views of their culture and heritage differ? What about their lives has impacted these views?

  5. Would you recommend this book to others? Why or why not?

From the Stacks: Local librarians' recommendations

If you liked “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller, check out these recommendations from your local librarians.

‘Milk and Honey’ by Rupi Kaur

Books of poetry rarely make bestseller lists, but milk and honey is a stunning exception: a female Indian-born Canadian writer self-publishes a book about abuse, sexual violence and healing, and the book goes viral. The spare poems are equal parts heartbreaking and gorgeous.

-- Shelley Tougas, interim co-director, Hudson Area Public Library

‘Pachinko’ by Min Jin Lee

"’Pachinko’ follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity."-- Provided by publisher.

-- Nora Allen, assistant librarian, New Richmond Friday Memorial Library

‘The Girl Who Fell From the Sky’ by Heidi W. Durrow

This award winning debut novel is based on an actual news story about a mother and her children who fell off of a roof in Chicago. Only one of them survived. This tragic story stirred the author’s interest and imagination and became the inspiration for this work of fiction. Rachel, the one surviving child of a black G.I. and Danish immigrant, goes to live with her paternal grandmother in Portland, Oregon after the accident. In Oregon, she was confronted with racial prejudices and expectations based on her skin tone. What follows is Rachel’s struggle for identity intertwined with her mixed race. I highly recommend this thought provoking novel.

-- Tanya Misselt, library director, River Falls Public Library

‘Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-love’ by Jonathan Van Ness

This memoir from the fabulous star of Netflix’s Queer Eye will make you laugh and cry as you hear his stories of growing up gay, learning to turn pain into positivity, and embracing your differences. This story is really inspirational and entertaining, and listening to the audiobook is a special treat as it is read by the author.

-- Brianna Zemke, assistant librarian, Somerset Public Library

‘City of Girls’ by Elizabeth Gilbert

This historical novel follows Vivian as she recounts the time she spent with her Aunt Peg at her down-at-the heel midtown theater in 1940s New York. The novel is not only a joyous escape it is also a multi-layered celebration of womanhood. Vivian is an independent thinking, free-spirited young woman who finds her tribe in Manhattan during a time when free-spirited young women weren’t always celebrated. It is about women who are fully themselves and empowered to live their lives on their terms. Vivian embodies author Elizabeth Gilbert’s adage that “one doesn’t have to be a good girl to be a good person.”

-- Caroline Herfindahl, programming coordinator, Ellsworth Public Library