Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Know My Name by Chanel Miller is a poignant memoir about a sexual assault survivor whose case gains enormous media attention as she struggles to find her voice amid the noise.
Chanel is known as Emily Doe in what becomes known as the Stanford Rape Case. At a Stanford University frat party in January 2015, Chanel is found unconscious half-naked outside by a dumpster being assaulted by Brock Turner, a star swimmer at the university. Chanel, at the time, is a recent graduate of University of California Santa Barbara who had decided to join her younger sister and friends at the frat party. But they get separated, and Chanel blacks out. She isn’t the perfect victim. She becomes too drunk to the point she passes out. She already graduated from another college, a lower-level one. She has a boyfriend. She lives in Palo Alto, miles away. This plagues her case throughout as she notices Brock’s golden white boy status as an Olympic-bound swimmer trumps what happens to her, who she is.
She narrates the hardship of being raped and not remembering the act. Her details of how she is found and realizing the number of men who had seen her in that position haunts her. As a student at UCSB during the infamous 2014 Isla Vista rampage where a mass murderer blamed his actions on girls who wouldn’t have sex with him, Chanel brings this memory up sometimes along with the fear of being punished by men for not letting them use her body as they like. During the trial, she sees Brock being believed more than her because of her unconsciousness at the party, her non-star status. Brock says Chanel enjoyed the penetration, the dry humping, the breast fondling so much she had an orgasm. His words over hers, his character witnesses’ words over hers follow her around as she tries to find peace in the yearslong case, even running to Rhode Island for an academic program and Pennsylvania to stay with her Wharton-bound boyfriend.
In the beginning, she mentions how she misspelled “subpoena” in a court document and that people judged her for it. But she is honest about not quite understanding the intricacies of the legal system and ultimately how she sees the system not being on her side. One important factor that becomes a theme is how she is defined as a white female in court. She’s half-Chinese. When this book came out, readers were surprised about her being Asian because the amount of support she received may have been determined by her whiteness alone. She shares how her mother is a well-known Chinese author and living within her Chinese culture in California.
Overall, the memoir introduces us to Chanel as she describes her journey to accept what happens to her post-trauma and how to use it as a force of positivity to help others going through a similar ordeal.