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What We Talk About When We Talk about Rape

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  923 ratings  ·  193 reviews
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.

Sohaila Abdulali was gang-raped as a seventeen-year-old in Mumbai. Indignant at the silence on the issue in India,
Paperback, 265 pages
Published January 26th 2019 by Myriad Editions (first published October 25th 2018)
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Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism
A book every man should read, written with compassion and power and managing to maintain balance. Abdulali describes herself thus:

“A brown bisexual middle-aged atheist Muslim survivor immigrant writer without a Shame Gene”

She knows of what she writes having survived a gang rape by four men when she was seventeen and living in India. One of the strengths of the book is that it draws on the stories of women throughout the world, not just from Europe and the US. Abdulali talks about the #MeToo
Schizanthus Nerd
Content warning: Naturally a book with ‘rape’ in its title is going to come with a content warning from me. This book is confronting so I would caution you to be aware of the potentially triggering nature of the content, but it was one of the best I’ve ever read on the topic.

The author considers the difficulty of categorising this book and I agree; it’s a blend of personal experience, other peoples’ experiences and insights. What kept popping into my head as I was reading was that it’s a
Julie Ehlers
What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape is one of those books I would never discourage anyone from reading. Certainly, it deals with an important topic, and its virtues are many. The writing is engaging. The author, who recounts several of her own experiences here, is great company. And the wide-ranging perspective, covering many countries and cultures, is exactly what a typical self-centered American like myself needed; I learned a lot and was grateful for it.

Unfortunately, though, this book
Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell

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Wow. This is one of the most difficult books I've read in a while, but it's so important, so I pushed through even though I felt very uncomfortable. WHAT WE TALK ABOUT is written by a survivor of sexual assault. It's about her story, but it's also about the broader picture, as well-- the #MeToo movement, other women (and men) who experience abuse, advice on how to talk to and console victims respectfully, and discussions about consent.

Thank you NetGalley and The New Press for this ARC.

"So what is this book? It's about shining a light on what we talk about, but also on what we don't talk about."

This is a fabulous description of the content. The author sits you down and talks to you like an older sister. Sharing stories, facts and opinions while allowing you to form your own. She questions everything and makes you feel safe and welcome to do the same.

"Discussions about rape tend to be irrational, and sometimes outright
Amna Ikhlaq
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is such an important book. If I had to put into words, I'd say this book is the conversation about rape that I wish someone older and more mature had had with me or I could have with someone .younger. The good thing is, now we can. Through this memoir-slash-self help manual, Sohaila Abdulali, a rape survivor and head of a rape crisis center, shows us just how frankly we can talk about sexual assault
Earlier this year, I read Gay's Not that Bad, which is supposedly about rape culture, but mostly about response to rape. It wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't what I thought it would be.

This book is more about that. It is truly a look at the culture that surrounds us and thereby determines how we talk and think about rape. There is much about education and how to change education to push back against rape culture.

Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
--- trigger warning: rape, sexual violence ---

Sohaila Abdulali was raped as a 17 year-old woman by five men while out with her male friend in Mumbai. Speaking about her own experience as a survivor as well as educator, academic, and head of the rape crisis centre in Boston, this book is a great overview on the current discussion on rape, and rape culture. She adequately asks the question how to classify this book: is it a memoir, a social sciences text book, classic non-fiction? Probably all of
Jenn "JR"
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerfully written testimonial of the attitudes and experiences of women (mostly) of rape across cultures and time. The author provides her own experience with rape -- and with writing about rape -- as a backdrop for first-person accounts of the impacts of rape, getting on with life after and the changes in attitude around the world toward rape (though mostly in India, Europe and the US). This book is incredibly well written and personal - highly recommended for everyone.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

My experience of this book is positive, but it is about rape, all kinds of rape, and it’s not skimpy on the details. If you’re going to find the topic of rape viscerally upsetting, please don’t read this review! I don’t want anyone to feel unsafe, although I think the book in itself is potentially really helpful.

The title pretty much encapsulates what the book is about: Sohaila Abdulali thinks that rape has been a taboo and difficult subject for too long, leaving
Marija (Inside My Library Mind)
More reviews up on my blog Inside My Library Mind

This was brilliant. Intersectional and incredibly nuanced, not to mention really smart. As I've mentioned on numerous ocassions, the more of feminist fiction I read, the more it feels like preaching to the choir. I feel like most of the readership of feminist literature is feminists, so I've been craving something more nuanced. And this was it. There's a fantastic chapter on consent which tackles the question so eloquently and insightfully.
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs, fletcher, feminist
** A copy of What We Talk about When We Talk about Rape was provided by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review **

As someone who studies gender and sexual violence, I know that most of the writing around it isn't always the most accessible. Abdulali's book breaks the barrier: this is a highly engaging and easily accessible book on rape culture. The short essays are easy to follow but still pack a punch. This is a powerful collection of essays on stigma, victim-blaming,
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant book that opens discourse on the topic of rape, through the lens of women, men and different cultures. It follows the journey of a survivor from the rape itself, to the reporting of the rape, to the years that have gone that she received no justice. She follows the current #metoo campaigns detailing not much has changed. Sohaila touches on gender role attitudes and their impact on women in the 21st century. this book opens a narrative that has not been explored before.

Christina Marroquin
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
God. Damn. This one is certainly a tough read for anyone. I’d caution anyone who is triggered by talk of abuse of any kind.

That being said. God. Damn. Get ready to throw out all previous opinions about rape, rape culture, and anything else to do with it. Set them aside and just listen.

I’ve never read a more comprehensive examination of the psychology and culture of rape. There are plenty of great books coming out but this one examines it from every angle and discusses every aspect or life
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Vital reading. It's hard to say you 'like' a book like this, as it's a brutal and difficult read. It's a great mix of personal and anecdotal stories with larger issues of rape, particularly the difficulty in balancing the life-shattering seriousness of rape with the fact that people can (and do) go on to live rich and joyful lives after rape. This book is worthy of close reading and discussion, and should be assigned reading for older teenagers in schools.
Wynne Kontos
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Despite the immensity of its title and subject, Sohaila Abdulali's short, brilliant manifesto reads like a conversation with a wiser, smarter, kinder friend.

Having survived a gang-rape in Bombay, India as a teenager, and later deemed "the last living rape victim in India" after penning an article on her ordeal, Abdulali has made it her life's work to assist other victims of sexual assault. She's worked in crisis centers, manned hotlines, researched theses and written books on the subject. She
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, netgally
Absolutely love this one. Her voice is so empowering, her anger and concern can be read in every single page, we need more books like this, that make us think, that make us feel and that make us a bit more human.
Is certainly a tough one to read in one go, I felt I needed time to reflect, but it's a fast pace read with loads of information. Everybody needs to read this book and hopefully we all can change out minds on how we talk about rape, or how we don't talk about it.
So I'm not as eloquent
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, net-galley, woc
This novel was a tough one to read, but a great one at that. Sohaila Abdulali, a rape survivor herself, details not only her attack but others as well. This book is an IMPORTANT ONE. It is important to start these conversations. It's not easy to hear graphic stories detailing sexual violence, but we need to hear them in order to assist victims. This novel is a great book if you're looking for a very empowering, important book.
Thank you, NetGalley for a copy of this book, in exchange for an
Dora Okeyo
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
It saddens me that I reside in a country where rape is a taboo topic but even worse still is that those who are raped are shamed and blamed by either the authorities or those that they open up to. I was motivated to read this book because I needed to go beyond empathy into action, and in this case be proactive in initiating this much needed discussion both at work and with my friends. Thank you Sohaila for sharing this insightful read with me via NetGalley.
Sue Dix
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i received a free ebook ARC from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This should be required reading for all human beings. This book gives us the language and the instructions for speaking honestly and openly about rape. This book is not accusatory or preachy and I am surprised at how much I didn’t really know about rape. The author speaks about what rape survivors need and it can be vastly different for each rape survivor. I highly recommend this book.
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-review
Feminism is all about empowering women. And this book does exactly that; it asks difficult questions, it delves deep into a subject that is wrongly, in my opinion, considered taboo, it promotes both empathy and critical thinking. This book may not be a memoir or an academic piece, it is however carefully and precisely researched. Abdulali has an important voice that needs to be heard.

This copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley.
Amy DePoy
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Absolutely incredible. Abdulali created an amazing treatise on rape and how people talk about it. She made me think critically about so many facets of society I hadn't thought hard enough about. Her critical eye and her compassion and empathy are on full display. So timely and important. Readers of Roxane Gay will love it!
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic read. Real, honest, moving and what everyone needs to hear. This book should be essential reading for everyone. It doesn't preach, its not an "anti-male" book; its a book about rape. How do we see rape, whats it like for the victims and how does society affect all of these things.

Just wow. Would definitely recommend!
Morgan Schulman
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reader-s-copy
I was given an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review

Very powerful book- she really goes deeply into topics that other writers stay away from, pushing the conversation into uncomfortable places. Definitely necessary for anyone new to the topic and feminist discourse in general
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Conversational, fast read with perspective. Answers/dispells dumb questions and asks smart ones.
Akaash Kumar
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
The word, rape, is always met with apprehension. People struggle to acknowledge the word. People flinch at the word. People would rather say nothing, than acknowledge the existence of such a confronting, vile occurrence - very much a reality for many. In what can only be described as nothing short of saddening and heartbreaking, Abdulali takes the reader on a journey. Her journey. And the journey of others who have experienced sexual assault and rape. By telling her own story, as well as ...more
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This may be triggering to some, but I urge you to read it.

So much better than anything written by Rebecca Solnit

Why have I stated that is everything Rebecca Solnit isn’t? Because it is intersectional, dealing with race, gender, religion and the myriad of other influences that essentially make up the context of a person’s story.

The author herself acknowledges she contradicts herself, asking the difficult questions about the how and the why. It is the first time that I have found definitions of
I do not know how to review something of this magnitude. Something that has gave me so many emotions but taught me so many lessons. A book that is starting to give me understanding. A book that has truly made me want to continue to understand parts of me that I have hidden away.

This book is powerful and not only tells a woman’s survival but many others and explains so much while giving other people’s story voice. The volume of this story is loud and I heard every last bit of it.

Regina Spiker
Yes, this book was a hard read but the author, after being gang raped as a older teen, has went on to carve out a good life with the help of her parents, family, and friends along the path of healing. She sees the necessity of talking about a taboo subject especially to our own children, both male and female in the world we live in today.

"If we can expose our children to talk of genocide, racism, bikini waxing and the inevitable melting of the planet, why should we leave out sexual
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
To outline my review: first discuss the book as a whole. Second outside topics that were touched on in the book. I’ll end with my thoughts/personal experience of sexual assault. *Strap in, it’s going to be a long review. If you don’t wish to read a verbose review: just read it. You’re welcome.

This book has been completely eye opening and heart wrenching. Like Sohaila said in the beginning, it shows the many contradictions and grey areas of rape and assault. I had one minor quibble (which I will
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Sohaila Abdulali was born in Bombay, India. She did her schooling in India, and moved to the United States with her family when she was 15. Since then, she has lived in both countries. She has a BA from Brandeis University in Economics and Sociology, and an MA from Stanford University in Communication. Her undergraduate thesis dealt with the socio-economics of rape in India. When she was 20, she ...more
“Girls and boys get completely different messages about sex. We assume that sex feels good for boys, but girls learn early that losing their virginity is supposed to hurt. We create the idea that sex is uncomfortable for girls, and we raise girls who don’t think they deserve pleasure, and boys who at best don’t care about their partners’ pleasure, and at worst are actively abusive.” 1 likes
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