I’m not exaggerating when I say that Know My Name by Chanel Miller is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
If you aren’t familiar with Chanel Miller or her case, let me fill you in. In 2015, the high-profile criminal case People v. Turner went viral. For months, it was nearly impossible to scroll through social media without seeing the chilling arrest photo of Brock Turner, a college rapist.
The victim, an anonymous woman known as Emily Doe, was silent during most of the proceedings. In June 2016, Emily Doe released her victim-impact statement to Buzzfeed News. Within four days, the article earned 11 million views.
No one knew who the author was. But her rapist’s image spread across the Internet like wildfire.
Then, in 2019, Emily reclaimed her voice. And when she spoke, her words carried across the world.
Emily Doe revealed herself to be Chanel Miller, a Californian writer and artist in her mid-twenties. Her memoir, Know My Name hit the shelves, shedding light on her experience for the first time in the four years since the attack.
It’s a heartbreaking and empowering read. Here are three reasons why you need to read it right now.
1. It shows how sexual assault victims are treated.
Most of us have heard the statistics. We understand that most rapists are acquitted of their crimes. Out of those who are convicted, so few actually serve their full sentences. The effects of those outcomes are devastating to victims.
I knew all of these facts. However, it wasn’t until reading Know My Name that I realized the full extent to which sexual assault trials contribute to a victim’s trauma.
In her memoir, Chanel Miller recounts her entire experience, from the assault to the aftermath of the trial. Throughout the process of bringing her case to court, Miller details several instances in which she was degraded and looked down upon by individuals involved in the proceedings.
There were few moments throughout her story where Miller was properly treated with the dignity and care that she deserved as a victim. This memoir really illuminates the issues within the legal system and how victims lack support throughout their cases.
2. It empowers Chanel Miller and her story.
When Turner’s face first showed up on our TVs and social media feeds, Chanel Miller was removed from the narrative. She became Emily Doe, a faceless entity—less than a person.
For years, the story circulated on her behalf, with her attacker at the forefront. We heard his name, we saw his face, and we knew his story. Debates surrounded the consequences and the future of his life—the victim was often excluded from these conversations entirely.
By writing and publishing Know My Name, Chanel Miller has a voice again.
In returning to her story, Miller revisits her trauma and reinserts herself into the narrative in a way that cannot be ignored. In preparing to write this book, she actually got access to court documents that she hadn’t ever seen before.
The most difficult part about reading Know My Name was watching Miller’s distress play out in the years following her assault. But reading about her experience was crucial to understanding the severity of a victim’s trauma. Even when the trial ends, their suffering doesn’t.
For years, the media focused on debates about Turner’s future. Would the case ruin his life? Reports claimed he had a promising future that was ruined by the trial, arrest, and media exposure.
But Chanel Miller’s future was never considered. Know My Name forces you to consider it.
3. It discusses violence against women.
One of the aspects of this book that I was most affected by was Chanel Miller’s discussion on violence against women.
When I first cracked open the spine on Know My Name, I expected a heartwrenching memoir. And while Miller completely delivered, she went above and beyond by connecting her experiences to larger issues in our society.
In 2014, Chanel Miller was attending the University of California, Santa Barbara when a gunman launched a series of misogynistic attacks on students around the campus. She draws upon her exposure to the Isla Vista attacks to make larger observations on violence against women and the incel movement.
It’s important to take note of these events and their relevance to the broader issues. So often, our society overlooks the influence of misogyny in our culture. It’s not as simple as a few jokes here and there; it often leads to rhetoric that creates hatred and violence against all women.
As far as memoirs go, Know My Name has certainly been among the most impactful.
If you’re looking for a powerful read about social justice and women’s rights, Know My Name by Chanel Miller should absolutely be at the top of your list.
For more book-related content, make sure to check out my other posts here.