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Denial: A Memoir of Terror

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  997 ratings  ·  197 reviews

"I have listened and I have been quiet all my life. But now I will speak."

One of the world's foremost experts on terrorism and post-traumatic stress disorder investigates her own unsolved adolescent sexual assault at the hands of a serial rapist, and in so doing, examines the horrors of trauma and denial.

Alone in an unlocked house in a safe neighborhood in the sub

Hardcover, 300 pages
Published June 22nd 2010 by Ecco
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  997 ratings  ·  197 reviews

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May 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
No other book I have read has so wholly and completely encapsulated what it is to suffer PTSD after being sexually assaulted. This book was a lifeline for me - it reassured me that I am not alone; it offered such compassionate understanding of what it is to navigate the world this way; it moved me deeply; it gave me hope. I've bought several copies in the past week to give to friends, to say - 'Here. This is what it's like inside my head. This is how I respond to the world. These are the things ...more
Aug 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
I have been dreading writing this review for a couple of days. I didn't like the book. I was disappointed which says something for my own expectations rather than the author. Given the author's expertise and academic accomplishment, I expected to be "wowed" by her insight and experience. Instead I felt like I was reading a teenager's diary which would actually make a lot of sense, since she hasn't opened this compartment since the horrific experience when she was 15.

What made it feel like a diar
Sher Fick
Jul 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
I am on page 85. I. AM. NOT. ALONE. I have that feeling that this author has been inside my head for about 40 years. I never knew the effects were so patterned for so many survivors. I am so glad this book found me! Thanks GIGI!

I finished the book this morning. I am so - celebrative - that Jessica Stern did this hard work and created this book. It couldn't have been easy and she shared that struggle, along with every un-politically correct thought she had as she did it. Her bravery in digging in
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
Jessica Stern was fifteen years old when she was raped. She and her fourteen-year old sister were alone at her step-mother's home in a safe neighborhood where rapes don't happen, doing their homework, when a gun-wielding skinny man with a strong cologne and concord accent walked in and raped them. When they however reported the crime, the police were skeptical.

For the next more than thirty years, Jessica denied her pain. She became an expert on terrorism. However, she found herself incapable of
Helen Epstein
Mar 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Denial is a difficult book, uncomfortable to read and even more
uncomfortable to review. It is a first-hand, detailed account by a
Harvard expert on terrorism of her rape by a stranger when she was 15
years old. Using police records and some of the same methodology she
used to interview international terrorists, Jessica Stern tries to
understand the man who raped her in 1973, as well as the rape╒s
long-term sequelae for herself. Her story is often vivid, surprisingly
candid and well- described but, at
Sigrid Ellis
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
It's not that I can really say that I liked this book. Or, rather, I did like it -- I liked the narrator, Jessica herself, who transmutes trauma and shame into a relentless search for painful, dangerous truth.

I am put in mind of the idea from the Jewish faith, that good is show in works, not intentions. You have have right action without right thought, you can do good for bad reasons. The idea that, over time, right action leads to right thought. Fake it 'til you make it.

Jessica went looking fo
Jun 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
From My Blog...[return][return]Denial: A Memoir of Terror by Jessica Stern is a deeply personal, raw, and profound look at the effects trauma has on an individual, the lengths one's brain will go to, to protect itself, and the damages stemming from denial. As my reader's know, I am a fan of memoirs, it is one of my most favourite genres and I have read my fair share of memoirs and this is the first memoir that is so honestly fresh, raw and written in a flawed manner that one gets the impression ...more
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book was uncomfortable to read; not because it was "raw" or "personal" or "deep" but rather because the narrative was disjointed, often featuring digressions into discussions of events and people that were not related or at least, their relationship to the story not made clear. The writing style was generally good, however the author used many unusual sentences (e.g. "I should tell you about this") to join the narrative together. This made it hard to understand why we were being taken in th ...more
Jun 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
In general, this book was interesting, but difficult to read. Full-length review: ...more
Apr 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
When she was fifteen, Stern and her fourteen-year-old sister were raped at gunpoint by a stranger who invaded her house; Stern responded with a kind of emotional freeze that allowed her, years later, to interview terrorists without turning a hair, and which she only even later realized was a result of PTSD. Stern traces the effects and responses to trauma to her family history: her father was a Holocaust survivor, her mother died at 28 of a cancer most likely caused by her father's "treatments" ...more
Jan 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Superbly written. This is an extremely personal account of the author's rape and the denial and shame that followed. There are so many useful insights in this book that I often had to put it down just to process what I had just read. For me, this was a 5 star book.
Jul 25, 2020 rated it liked it
I found this book a bit too long, with unnecessary details from conversations she had with people she interviewed.
Apr 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Although it is written in sparse readable prose and is highly intelligent and insightful, this is neither a pleasant nor a brutal read. Ms. Stern, an expert in terrorism, uncovers the source of her own terror - her childhood rape and its consequences. With the help of police, FBI contacts, and friends, Ms. Stern dares to delve into the life of her rapist - that unknown person who so affected her life. In doing so she is forced to consider how wide-ranging the after effects, how much of what she ...more
Sandra Stiles
Jun 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
In 1973 15 year old Jessica Stern and her 14 year old sister encounter a man in their step-mother's house. he is armed with a gun. He rapes them both threatening to kill them if they don't comply or if they say anthing. Fast forward several years and we find Jessica is now a successful expert on terrorists and terrorism. She finds that the things that should terrify her don't and simple things do. She makes a decision to find out why. It is during this exploration she goes back to the files on h ...more
Feb 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Naomi Wolf has already called Denial "one of the most important books I have read in a decade," and it's easy to see why. At the age of 15, Jessica Stern (and her sister, 14) were raped in the safe suburban town of Concord, Massachusetts. Decades later, Stern embarks on the emotionally harrowing journey to uncover the truth about her rapist. Writing with deep honesty and unflinching prose, she discovers that her trauma--and the terror her rape invokes--is also enmeshed with the death of her youn ...more
This was not an easy read. In fact at times it was down right uncomfortable. Not because of the subject matter per se but because of the format and manner of "story telling."

Obviously this is a very personal story. It is a journey of self discovery by a courageous, intelligent and successful woman. Ms. Stern opens up her life for the reader to include views into her family history, family dynamics and of course a major event in her life, the rape. As would be true in any situation, even from my
Charlie Bishop
Aug 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful and important book. Stern is a Harvard PhD, an internationally recognized expert on terrorism and the minds and motives of terrorists, and the daughter of a distinguished professor who, as a boy, suffered various humiliations under the Nazis in his native Germany. Stern herself was raped at age fifteen, as was her fourteen year old sister. Her memoir is a harrowing investigation of her humiliation, terror, and denial. The book is centered on a three-fold quest, first to find h ...more
I was really disappointed in this book. I don't really know how to put what I am feeling about it into words. I think this book was too all over the place and it seems like the author still hasn't came to terms with what happened to her. Also I was confused because to me it seems like her grandfather molested her but she never really comes out and admits it, it is just assumed. And she keeps saying her sister got raped but I thought that she begged him not too and he didn't? I don't even know. I ...more
May 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The author and her sister were raped when they were 14 and 15, they lost their mother when they were toddlers, their father fled Nazi persecution, and they were left with their sadistic grandfather far too often. These are facts that led to their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Stern’s account is disgustingly accurate. She never blinks. Nothing and no one is spared. This makes her account the best I’ve read. Her career prior to writing this book was profiling terrorists, what they do, why and ho ...more
Jan 10, 2011 rated it liked it
The author is a terrorism expert, national security adviser, and lecturer at Harvard. She confronts a definitive episode of terror in her own early life and traces its grim, damaging ramifications. Having grown up in Concord, Mass., in 1973, Stern, then 15, and her sister, a year younger, were forcibly raped at gunpoint by an unknown intruder; when the police reopened the case in 2006, Stern was compelled to confront the devastating experience. I have no doubt that what the author went through d ...more
Jan 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-but-unowned
Stern's book is a biography of sorts. It details her history as a victim of various types of sexual trauma and her ability to deny or disassociate from that trauma and work as an interviewer of terrorists around the world. I wouldn't say it was a fun read but it was an interesting one. I can't think of another book to which I would compare it. It was very straightforward about horrendous acts of abuse and rape suffered by the author, but, even in its straightforwardness, there is further demonst ...more
Suzanne Flohr
Jun 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
loved this book . Written by the victim herself. I highly recommend.
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The author bares her soul in writing this book about her rape when she was 15 years old. Written many years later when she is a world expert on terrorism, teaching at the CIA and Harvard. She uses the skills she learned in dealing with terrorists to explore her fathers reaction to her rape as well as her own. She also explores the background of her rapist. the title of the book denial relates to several people in the book in their dealing with the rape. It is a difficult book on a difficult subj ...more
Jun 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Denial: A Memoir of Terror is the true story of a rape victim who investigates her own case - experienced and written by terrorism expert and author Jessica Stern.

After receiving an email from police lieutenant Paul Macone regarding Stern's unsolved rape case from years before, Stern dives headfirst into confronting her deepest fears and overcoming her trauma. In the process, she conducts intimate interviews with members of her family and victims of the same rapist.

The first half of Denial is ab
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: traded-giveaway
Reviewing a book about rape is difficult. Being raped is a woman's greatest fear and can be the source of a woman's greatest shame. How does a reader critically analyze a story so personal, so damaging, and so removed from her own life?

This separation between myself and the author was consistently apparent, and not just regarding the rape. The relationships Stern had with her family horrified me. While Stern acknowledges her father, her grandmother, and her grandfather's flaws, she continually p
Jan 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Jessica Stern is an international expert on terrorism and academic who has written this book about he own ordeal. As a fifteen year old, she was home alone with her fourteen year old sister, when an armed man broke into their house and raped both girls.

Thirty years later a local police officer reopens the case and Jessica starts her own investigation, eager to learn as much as she can about the rapist. Finding that the rapist killed himself after some years in prison, she interviews his friends
Jul 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I had dinner with Jessica Stern one night a few years ago. Cyril Taylor invited us to dinner with a Harvard professor and it turned out it was Jessica Stern. She's one of the countries foremost experts on terrorists and has published at least one book and several articles on the subject. Her approach was unusual - she went out and actually spent time interviewing them (in the same vein as Daniel Pearl was doing when he was caught and executed). When I asked about if she was fearful doing this ty ...more
Oct 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Although this was an incredibly harsh book to read, disturbing and I can't say, "Ya - I ENJOYED that book!" - it was phenomenally thought provoking. Although, yes, it is about this woman's rape and the police reopening the case to track down the rapist 30 years later, it is her exploration into the rapist's past and trying to figure out what caused him to be the way he was. She also explores trauma in a variety of forms and how it affects each person. This woman actually worked for National Defe ...more
Sabrina Rutter
In this memoir Jessica Stern tells the reader how she and her younger sister were raped at gun point when they were teenagers. The police didn't take their claim very seriously and went as far to say that the girls were lying. Now more than several years later Jessica is contacted by police lieutenant Paul Macone telling her that he has opened the case once again and feels that he can solve it.
Jessica suffers from Posttraumatic stress disorder due to the rape. This book really does give one a go
Jun 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Incredible book. This is a disturbing look inside of an individual that has suffered the unthinkable and lived with it for a lifetime. The violent rape of her and her little sister has haunted Jessica her entire life and left her with questions that she is determined to find out - despite the terror and fear that tries to keep her away. The words contained in this book truly open your eyes to a world that many of us have never experienced or even think about. Pain. Shame. Hurt. Embarrassment. Fe ...more
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Jessica Stern is a Lecturer in Public Policy and a faculty affiliate of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. From 1994-95, she served as Director for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council, where she was responsible for national security policy toward Russia and the former Soviet states and for policies to reduce the threat of nuclear smugglin ...more

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52 likes · 24 comments
“Some people's lives seem to flow in a narrative; mine had many stops and starts. That's what trauma does. It interrupts the plot. You can't process it because it doesn't fit with what came before or what comes afterward. A friend of mine, a soldier, put it this way. In most of our lives, most of the time, you have a sense of what is to come. There is a steady narrative, a feeling of "lights, camera, action" when big events are imminent. But trauma isn't like that. It just happens, and then life goes on. No one prepares you for it.” 76 likes
“This book is a memoir - not of specific life events, but of the processes of dissociation, and of re-enlivening emotions that are shameful to admit or even to feel. It is an account of the altered states that trauma induces, which make it possible to survive a life-threatening event but impair the capacity to feel fear, and worse still, impair the ability to love. (292)” 22 likes
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