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2020 / Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Chanel Miller is a writer and artist who received her BA in Literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her critically acclaimed memoir, “Know My Name”, was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book, and a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, as well as a best book of 2019 in Time, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, NPR, and People, among others. She is a 2019 Time Next 100 honoree and a 2016 Glamour Woman of the Year honoree under her pseudonym, “Emily Doe.”
In the wake of her sexual assault behind a Stanford fraternity dumpster in January 2015, little was publicly known about Emily Doe beyond the description “Brock Turner’s victim.” Devoid of any true humanity in her own story, Emily felt what many survivors experience: fear, shame, isolation, and self-doubt. Yet even in anonymity — and before the broader eruptions of #MeToo and #TimesUp — she was quietly transcending the oppressive forces of the criminal justice system, and making her voice heard. Last year, Emily Doe emerged under her real name, Chanel Miller, to share the full story of her trauma and recovery in her breathtaking memoir, “Know My Name”.
Like many survivors, in the weeks, months, and years following her assault, Miller was silenced and discredited by the legal system and the media. Hers was the perfect case, in many ways — there were eyewitnesses, Turner ran away, physical evidence was immediately secured. But her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios. Converting her anger into power, Miller ultimately confronted her attacker in court. After Turner was convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault but sentenced to only six months in county jail, her twelve-page victim impact statement was released publicly. Published on BuzzFeed, it was viewed by over eleven million people in four days, read on the floor of the United States Congress, and translated into more than five languages. It inspired a surge in calls to rape hotlines, changed California’s rape laws, and enlightened our culture about what it means to be a survivor. Thousands wrote to say that she had given them the courage to share their own experiences of assault for the first time.
Miller reclaimed her identity with “Know My Name”, taking readers on an in-depth and gut-wrenching — but ultimately hopeful — journey of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words to heal and effect change. Her narrative shifts the focus from the perpetrator to the survivor, concentrating on the critical (and much less common) work of revealing their truth and silent, unseen suffering. Miller’s story illuminates a culture biased to protect the accused, indicts a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and explains the lived reality of trauma that ripples outward and touches everything a survivor loves and cares about.
Miller’s memoir will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing. No longer Emily Doe, Chanel Miller raises her voice to let victims know they are never alone and gives them the confidence to be free of the shame that was never theirs to carry.