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Looking for Know My Name book club questions? This is your reading and discussion guide.
Content warning: Know My Name and the following article discuss sexual assault, PTSD, and rape culture.
Know My Name Summary
Most everyone will recognize the name Brock Turner and recall the sexual assault case that captured the nation’s attention. Turner assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at a frat party, and was only stopped when two bystanders noticed and tackled him to the ground.
The case went to trial, and he was found guilty…but the judge only sentenced him to six months in jail, causing nationwide outrage. Throughout this case, very few people knew his victim, Emily Doe, by her true name — until now. In Know My Name, Chanel Miller opens up about what it was like to wake up in the hospital and learn that she had been sexually assaulted, the early days of the investigation and pressing charges, the harrowing trial, the shocking prosecution hearing, and the fallout that has been felt around the country. This memoir makes for a powerful book club pick, and we’ve compiled a list of Know My Name book club questions for your next meeting.
Know My Name Book Club Questions
- Do you remember this case as it unfolded in the news? Did you follow it at all?
- Did you read Chanel’s victim impact statement when it went viral on BuzzFeed?
- Was there anything about Chanel’s story that surprised you? Was there anything about the legal system and process from a victim’s perspective that you found surprising?
- In what ways do you think the legal system failed Chanel? What — if anything — do you think was done well?
- Chanel writes, “They seemed angry that I’d made myself vulnerable, more than the fact that he’d acted on my vulnerability.” Discuss how consent is defined both in the context of her trial, and in society as a whole. Much was made of the fact that Chanel never said no — despite the fact that she was unable to do so — when in reality, consent should be enthusiastic and ongoing. How can we change the conversation about consent?
- In many ways, pressing charges was a dehumanizing experience for Chanel. Discuss how victims are dehumanized, and how Chanel counters this by humanizing herself in this book.
- While she was being coached for trial, Chanel was expected to appear a very specific way. Not too angry, not too sad, not too “okay.” And yet, a lot of what Chanel felt at times was rage. Is rage a valuable emotion? Discuss why or why not.
- One of the arguments against punishing Brock beyond six months in jail is that serving a prison sentence would ruin his life. And yet, as Chanel asks in this book, what about my life? Hers is not the only life affected, though. Discuss how this experience affected Chanel and her loved ones.
- Chanel also writes, “Most of us understand that your future is not promised to you. It is constructed day by day, through the choices you make. Your future is earned, little by little, through hard work and action. If you don’t act accordingly, that dream dissolves. If punishment is based on potential, privileged people will be given lighter sentences.” Do you agree or disagree with this evaluation?
- The word “victim” can be loaded — some prefer not to use it while others are fine embracing it. Discuss how Chanel feels about the word and the identity that comes with it.
- Discuss the power of names in Miller’s memoir. Chanel talks about the name she was given during the investigation and trial, her use of names throughout the narrative, and the power of claiming her own name. Why do you believe it’s important to her that people know her name? How does trauma take away someone’s identity?
- Chanel discusses the idea of forgiveness both during her account of speaking with the parole officer and at the end. Discuss how she defines forgiveness and how the parole officer interpreted Chanel’s wishes for Brock’s prosecution.
- Do you think that the movement to recall the judge who sentenced Turner to only six months in jail was a just reaction? Do you agree with Chanel’s wishes for Brock’s punishment? Does the American legal system need reform when it comes to sexual assaults?
- Do you believe that Stanford University did enough to reach out to Chanel after her assault? What more could they have done? Discuss universities’ roles and responsibilities in preventing rape and diminishing rape culture. Do you have more empathy for survivors of sexual assault after reading this memoir? How so?
Chanel is a very eloquent writer, and she pens many memorable lines and passages. Are there any that were particularly striking or that stood out to you?
- Chanel talks about her family legacy of writing, and how she wants to go on to write more books. Would you read anything else that she writes?
If you’re looking for more powerful memoirs and novels for your book club discussions, check out our list of the best book club books of 2020. And if you want something a little more personalized, consider signing up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations.
TBR is a quarterly book recommendation service that provides you with three personalized book recommendations. Here’s how it works: Fill out our reader survey, which will ask you about books you love, don’t love, what you want to read more of, favorite genres, authors, and titles, and possible themes. You can even link your Goodreads page so that we know what you’ve read already. Then, you’ll be matched with an expert Bibliologist who will read your responses carefully and recommend three books, just for you! Choose to receive your recommendations as either recommendations-only, or as hardcover books. If you choose just the recommendations, you’ll get a recommendation letter in your inbox in about two weeks. If you choose the hardcovers, brand new hardcovers will arrive at your door from our partner, Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine, in 3–4 weeks!