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Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl: A Memoir

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  2,000 ratings  ·  347 reviews
Jeannie Vanasco has had the same nightmare since she was a teenager. She startles awake, saying his name. It is always about him: one of her closest high school friends, a boy named Mark. A boy who raped her.

When her nightmares worsen, Jeannie decides—after fourteen years of silence—to reach out to Mark. He agrees to talk on the record and meet in person. "It's the least I
Hardcover, 360 pages
Published October 1st 2019 by Tin House Books
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Emily May
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Emily May by: Laurie Halse Anderson
We used to be friends.

As you may have heard, this book is about the author, Jeannie Vanasco, interviewing the man and former friend who raped her when they were teenagers. After years of nightmares and trying to escape her past, Vanasco decided instead to confront it. To seek the answers she has needed for so long. To try and make sense of that one horrific night.

This an arresting premise, to be sure, though whether you feel curious about what this asshole has to say for himself or angry tha
Laurie Anderson
4.5 stars

I got to review Jeannie Vanasco's memoir about confronting her rapist (who had been a close friend) fourteen years after he assaulted her. Thoughtful, provocative, and raw; you want to read this one.

Want to know more? Here's a link to my TIME review:
Oof. I suspected this would be great but it packs more of a punch than I even expected - Vanasco, a woman in her early 30s and teacher of memoir writing at a university, decides to get back in touch with her rapist, a guy she was close friends with as a teenager until he assaulted her at a party when she was 19. The book then chronicles the process of getting back in touch with this guy ("Mark"), first through a series of phone calls and how the process of revisiting the rape and her friendship ...more
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I doubt I'm the only woman sexually assaulted by a friend and confused about her feelings."

Wow. This is one powerful read.

Heavy content warnings for rape and sexual assault.

15 years ago, Jeannie Vanasco was raped by a close friend. In this memoir, she explores how that incident affected her then, affects her now, and - in a move that makes this book not only unique but a necessary read - talks to her rapist about his view on the assault.

Despite being written in a simple style that's easy to fol
Holly Tracy
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned
Update: I decided to change this to two stars from one. It deserves at least an additional star for the act of doing this at all, what it took emotionally to be able to write anything down, let alone interviewing and seeing her rapist, someone who was a good friend and betrayed that relationship.

First: brave topic and approach. However, the execution is flawed. Most obvious: nothing in this book implies a list of things that weren’t taught to the author as a girl. Nothing was mentioned in any wa
DNF at 22%.
I don't remember how I encountered this book, but I want to say that it was a "books similar to" recommendation from my library after reading Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. So I added it, and then waited for ages on hold for it... and now I've read less than a quarter of it, which has taken me four days already, and I'm returning it.

This is a memoir about a woman's sexual assault when she was a teen, and her coming to terms with all that that entails - regarding what co
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I finished Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was A Girl, a memoir about sexual assault/rape where the author contacts and interviews her former "friend" who assaulted her 14 years prior. It's a powerful story of friendship, betrayal, gender, sexual assault, forgiveness but mostly about the performance of gender for good and ill. "Mark" is not redeemed but also not demonized. Essential reading. It will be read and discussed mostly by women but should also be read by boys/men. ...more
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, 2019
Wow. This was an extremely heavy book. Jeannie Vanasco wrote a memoir about how she was raped by one of her best friends when she was nineteen and now in her thirties gets back in contact to interview him about what happened.

The book is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It shows all of the complicated and conflicting feelings that can come after a sexual assault. Jeannie worries that she’s not angry enough, that she’s letting other women down by giving “Mark” a voice, that she’s too forgiv
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
5 big huge giant stars for this memoir. I’ve not read anything like this before. I loved her style, transparency, honesty, and heartfelt true emotion in this. Transcribing conversations with her perpetrator was smart, but then analyzing her own behavior in each interaction after transcription was genius. If you or anybody you know has experienced sexual assault or a confusing sexual encounter with anybody in your life, this book will shed some light. It did for me.
Anita Pomerantz
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
The premise of this memoir was very original, and for me, that's what made it a compelling read. How the story was related to the reader didn't totally work for me and seemed very repetitive, but I still really appreciated what the author was trying to do.

Jeannie was sexually assaulted (by some legal definitions she was raped) by a good friend of hers, aka Mark, when she was 19 years old. 14 years later, she tracks him down, and basically attempts to get his side of the story, and to process th
Jessica Sullivan
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“I’m interested in writing about us, because I want to understand, I want to believe, that it’s possible to be a good person, a really good person, who makes a mistake.”

Wow. Okay. This is the #MeToo era book I’ve been waiting for. The movement has been so crucial from an activism standpoint, but I’ve often felt like the mainstream conversation lacks the nuance that has shaped my personal experiences.

When Jeannie Vanasco was 19 years old, her good friend Mark raped her at a party. Now, years late
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Things We Didn't Talk about When I was a Girl by Jeannie Vanasco details her sexual assault victimization and the aftermath. The memoir is quite insightful and provides many interesting observations when it comes to victims, society and those that do wrong.

Fourteen years after a sexual assault incident, Jeannie Vanasco reestablishes contact with the perpetrator and details her life before, during and after the incident. Along the way, Jeannie Vanasco insightfully discusses the subject of sexual
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could give this book ten stars, but even then it still wouldn’t do it justice. This is such an important book that applies to all women and girls, whether or not we have been assaulted. The need to apologize, to think about others first before ourselves, to downplay violent crime, and to continue to contact rapists after they have violated trust in the most inhumane way—she includes all of the ways girls and women have been conditioned to be nice.
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic, memoirs
[trigger warning: rape, suicide] Where to begin reviewing this book? When Jeannie Vanasco was a sophomore in college, grieving the recent death of her father, her close friend - who she refers to as Mark - rapes her. This book follows Jeannie 14 yr later as she decides to reach out to & begin conversation with Mark around the rape & their friendship. THINGS WE DIDN’T TALK ABOUT WHEN I WAS A GIRL hauntingly addresses redemption, rape culture, accountability, performative gender, and so much more. ...more
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
TW: discussions of rape and sexual assault throughout

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an eARC of this book. All opinions and comments made here are my own.

"Don't back down, she said. Don't let them twist what you know is true"

Oof let me start by saying that my review, is in no way going to do this book justice. I implore you to read this, incredibly thought-provoking memoir.

"I'll tell him: I still have nightmares about you"

I've never read a memoir before so really wasn't sure what to e
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a subject that is so important - it's something that needs to be spoken about more than ever. I think the MeToo movement is definitely helping voices be heard.

This book is like nothing I've read before. It's a mixed feeling read to see how Jeannie has dealt with what happened, how she is doing things her own way to help herself find closure. I don't think there's any right way, I know there's reviews saying how she seems to be asking questions a lot on how others will see her. To me it s
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wowza. I've never read anything like "Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl" before. It's a fascinating look into the mind of a "nice guy" who rapes a friend, how that particular kind of betrayal is processed by both the victim and the perpetrator, and the complications of writing about it. It's so rare to get the perspective of the perpetrator, and the result here is stunning. I was especially moved by Vanasco's wrestling with whether or not to describe what happened to her as rape; tha ...more
Oct 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
Unfortunately Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl was a DNF for me. I had high hopes for this book so I’m extremely disappointed. I found it incredibly hard to stay engaged, the writing style was just not for me. It was choppy, disjointed and very repetitive.
It was a brave topic but the execution was lacking, it read more like a Q&A with notes for a book someone plans to write, rather than an actual book.
Daina Chakma
Jun 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Is it possible for a good person, a really good person to be a rapist?"

Jeannie Vanasco, the author of ' Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl', was raped by a close friend when she was 19 years old. Ever since she has had the same nightmare and finds herself startles awake, saying his name. More than a decade after the trauma, Vanasco decides to confront her rapist to find out how that one night has affected her former friend Mark.

The idea of giving voice to a rapist is unsettling and
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2020
Really 4.5 stars -- also content warning for open discussion of sexual violence --

I read Jeannie Vanasco's first memoir, The Glass Eye, a few years ago and enjoyed it. And as in so many memoirs where women (and genderqueer and other folks who are often marginalized) are telling their stories, I wondered aloud about whether she had experienced sexual violence that she was not including. I have done anti-rape work for 25+ years and this is OFTEN something that I wonder. A difficult year that the a
Bernard O'Leary
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not so much a book as a book about a book. Most of the wordcount is spent on Vanasco wrestling with questions of authorship: how to frame the story, how to portray her rapist, how to portray herself, whether she's using writing techniques to hide from the truth.

This approach will probably frustrate anyone hoping for cathartic fury, but it's the right means to her ends. Vanasco's book isn't really about rape so much as it's about living with trauma, about how we rewrite narratives when our world
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow! And what I loved the most was her ability to show the gray area where rape and sexual assault lie, because often these acts occur within our family and social communities and involve individuals we trust. It's damned uncomfortable to say the least but having conversations about this is good and we need more. ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anna Rubingh
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
an uncomfortable read at times but super important in the conversation surrounding the destigmatisation of rape written from a very uncommon but interesting perspective. left feeling more connected to the female experience, highly recommend
Cookie's Comforts
Sep 29, 2019 rated it liked it
TW - rape and sexual assault.

Due to the nature of this book, I don’t want to write anything negative about the subject matter.
I feel, it was a different and unique way to write life events. The only thing I struggled with was the length of the book.
Jessica Woodbury
You cannot walk into this book knowing what to expect. Its premise is unusual enough that all you can do is wonder how it will play out. There are lots of books about sexual assault now that #metoo has been going on long enough that we accept women's stories. It is important to believe women, but #metoo has reached a limit so far when it comes to what we do after that. After we believe a woman, then what? Here Vanasco grapples with that question when she decides to reopen contact with "Mark," wh ...more
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I had high expectations of this book and it exceeded even those. As cathartic as it is challenging this book should be read by all.
The style itself is beautiful and perfectly encapsulates the complexity of assault, accountability and the myriad of other emotions and issues in between. Its candour provides sharp relief to the rhetoric that has emerged following the #MeToo movement and explores, interrogates and reflects on the true multiplicity of issues
This really is essential reading.
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a very interesting book. At its foundation, it's a memoir focusing on a sexual assault the author experienced in high school at the hands of a very good friend. It has a twist in that the author interviews her attacker to discuss what he was thinking, why he did what he did, how it has affected him throughout his life and sharing with him how it affected her and her wondering if their friendship never was real. That's the idea of the book in a nutshell, but really it's so much more than ...more
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
*Trigger warning*
This book, and my review, is primarily concerned with sexual assault, rape and suicide.

I would also like to highlight that anyone of any gender can be raped by anyone, and whilst this book acknowledges this, it mainly deals with men being raped by women.

This book was fascinating. It was interesting, insightful and thought provoking, and I have never read a book like it. Jeannie’s memoir alternates between conversations with her partner, friends and past memories, and the dialogu
This was one of my favorite reads of 2019 and whatever review I give it will not do it's justice. But here goes:

In this memoir, Vanasco voiced all my inner questions about consent and the nuances of trauma in close relationships. It broke my freakin heart.

I emailed the author immediately after reading this memoir because never before has an author struck me so close to home, putting words to things I've always reckoned with but had been unable to voice. This is a memoir not only documenting one
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Jeannie Vanasco is the author of the memoirs Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl (2019) and The Glass Eye (2017). Both books are published by Tin House Books in the US and Duckworth Books in the UK.

Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl—a New York Times Editors' Choice, a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, and a TIME magazine Must-Read Book of 2019—explores Vanasco's former friendship

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