Book Talk: What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by Sohaila Abdulali
“ What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape is brilliant, frank, empowering, and urgently necessary. Sohaila Abdulali has created a powerful tool for examining rape culture and language on the individual, societal, and global level that everyone can benefit from reading. ”
This is the story
In the tradition of Rebecca Solnit, a beautifully written, deeply intelligent, searingly honest—and ultimately hopeful—examination of sexual assault and the global discourse on rape told through the perspective of a survivor, writer, counselor, and activist.
After surviving gang-rape at seventeen in Mumbai, Sohaila Abdulali was indignant about the deafening silence that followed and wrote a fiery piece about the perception of rape—and rape victims—for a women’s magazine. Thirty years later, with no notice, her article reappeared and went viral in the wake of the 2012 fatal gang-rape in New Delhi, prompting her to write a New York Times op-ed about healing from rape that was widely circulated. Now, Abdulali has written What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape—a thoughtful, generous, unflinching look at rape and rape culture.
Drawing on her own experience, her work with hundreds of survivors as the head of a rape crisis center in Boston, and three decades of grappling with rape as a feminist intellectual and writer, Abdulali tackles some of our thorniest questions about rape, articulating the confounding way we account for who gets raped and why—and asking how we want to raise the next generation. In interviews with survivors from around the world we hear moving personal accounts of hard-earned strength, humor, and wisdom that collectively tell the larger story of what rape means and how healing can occur. Abdulali also points to the questions we don't talk about: Is rape always a life-defining event? Is one rape worse than another? Is a world without rape possible?
Reviews and What Readers Say
“A candid, straightforward manifesto on sexual assault, rape culture, and where to go from here. . . . Abdulali achieves extraordinary success with this compulsively readable and effortlessly diverse book no doubt guaranteed to become an important part of the canon on gender studies and sexual assault."
“ An urgent tale imploring us to look at the ties between technology, race, gender and class privilege. . . . Surprisingly heartwarming. . . . An action-packed science fiction thriller.”
" An important book working towards an important goal: meaningful and thoughtful discussion of a taboo subject." ―Booklist
" At once direct and nuanced, unblinking yet subtle, the author tackles the complexities of sexual violence head-on, rightly criticizing simplistic shibboleths. . . . The book is distinguished by its global view; Abdulali includes examples and illustrations from the United States but also from India, South Africa, and Egypt. . . . Susan Brownmiller, vitally updated.”
“ The right to our own bodies is the first step in any democracy, and by that measure, women in general—especially those of us also de-valued by race, caste, or class—are still subject to an intimate dictatorship. Read the personal stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape and see how far we have come—and have yet to go. "
" Know this: the shock is not that Abdulali speaks frankly about rape. The shock is not that she interrogates the content, and limits, of our public discourses about rape culture with candor and warmth, with cool precision and justified rage, with wisdom and, yes, humor. The shock is that there are not more books like this. Read it, and do not stop talking."
―Sarah Krasnostein, author of The Trauma Cleaner
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Sohaila Abdulali was born in Mumbai. She has a BA from Brandeis University in economics and sociology and an MA from Stanford University in communication. She is the author of two novels as well as children’s books and short stories. She lives in New York with her family.