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Shelf Care at The Blue Bench: April Reading List

Welcome to the Shelf Care reading list by The Blue Bench! Every month, we curate a reading list of books showcasing powerful voices and talented storytelling. These books delve into topics related to sexual assault, identity, trauma, healing, hope, community, and resilience.

The books highlighted in this month’s list are by survivors of sexual violence, to uplift survivor voices in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. [TW/CW: These books may contain topics related to sexual assault, domestic violence, drug use, police brutality, incest, and other topics that may be triggering]

We are adding a special book every month, a banned book of the month. Books depicting sexual violence often get placed on banned book lists. We believe that silencing authors who’ve written about sexual violence perpetuates stigmas around the issue.

Know My Name: A Memoir

By Chanel Miller

Chanel Miller was known to the world as Emily Doe when her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed and went viral. Miller was the survivor in the Brock Turner case, in which Turner received six months in county jail after sexually assaulting her on Stanford University’s campus. Her anonymous statement was translated globally, sparked law changes in California, and was read on the floor of Congress. In this book, Miller reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma and resilience, and her struggle with shame and isolation after the assault. Her story reveals what survivors often face throughout the aftermath of a trial.

Chanel Miller is a writer and artist based in San Francisco and New York City. Know My Name won the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiographies and was named in several national book of the year lists. She currently has a mural displayed in San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum.

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture

Edited by Roxanne Gay

This anthology is a collection of stories and essays from women who are constantly forced to measure the harassment and violence they face, and the trauma that comes from second-guessing the level of one’s assault. Contributions to this anthology are from writers, performers, and critics, including Ally Sheedy, Gabrielle Union, Amy Jo Burns, Brandon Taylor and Lyz Lenz. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, this collection is both extremely personal and incredibly honest.

Roxanne Gay is an American writer, professor, editor, and social commentator. Gay is the author of The New York Times best-selling essay collection Bad Feminist, as well as several other nonfiction books, essay collections, and novels. Gay was an assistant professor at Eastern Illinois University and Purdue University, and is now a visiting professor at Yale University.

Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence

Edited by Lisa Factora-Borchers

Introduction by Aishah Shahidah Simmons

Dear Sisters is an anthology of messages, memories, lessons, and visions of over 50 artists, activists, mothers, writers, and students share their stories of survival. Written in letter-format, this is a multi-generational and multi-ethnic collection of letters and essays. Because this writing is from survivors of all walks of life, it extends beyond the traditional books about healing written from “experts” perspectives- it weaves together different voices and experiences to provide a well-rounded picture of what the healing process may look like for some survivors. A heartbreaking but necessary collection, this is a moving piece of important literature.

Lisa Factora-Borchers is a Filipinx American writer, activist, and publisher of Guernica magazine. She has also been a contributor to other anthologies and journals.

every day a hope

By Marci M. Matthews

Every Day a Hope encourages and empowers readers through tiny stories and illustrations. This book explores emotionally difficult issues while still allowing space for creativity and confidence. Though the majority of this book is derived from working with survivors and the author’s own experience as a survivor, the lessons are applicable for anyone navigating trauma. Every day a hope encourages readers to find hope, healing, and positivity in life.

Marci M. Matthews is an author, artist, philanthropist, advocate, and survivor. She is the founder of the Grace Initiative Foundation Tree, an organization dedicated to the healing and prevention of sexual violence.

Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement

By Tarana Burke

Unbound is Tarana Burke’s own story of how she came to terms with the two words, me too, that later became the rallying cry of one of the largest social movements of our generation. This memoir describes her own journey of her own experience with child sexual assault, and struggle to understand that what had happened to her was not her fault. Burke describes her fight to reunite her fractured self, through organizing and community, and how empowering sharing one’s experience can be. This book is not only about the resilience of a survivor, but also about the empowerment that comes from the community and finding one’s voice.

Tarana Burke is an activist, advocate, and author. She has been dedicated to fighting injustice at the intersection of race, violence, and gender. Burke has worked as a community organizer since the late 1980s. She is most known for her role in starting the Me Too Movement, which took the world by storm in 2017.


All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto

By George M. Johnson

This book is a YA memoir by LGBTQ+ activist George M. Johnson. This book explores Johnson’s experiences throughout childhood, adolescence, and college years, and navigating the duality of being Black and queer. Including memories from getting bullied as a child, to the loving relationship they had with their grandmother, to their first sexual experience, this book covers gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, and the Black experience in America.

This book has been placed on banned book lists for depicting sexual violence. In an interview with CBS News, Johnson said, “The reality is there is no topic that is too heavy for a child who could experience said topic. If a child can experience sexual abuse at the age of seven, a child should understand what sexual abuse looks like, how to handle it, how to discuss it, and how to talk about it. The repercussions of removing a resource like mine doesn't mean youth, specifically Black queer youth won't experience these things. What it does is remove an educational tool for them to have the knowledge and the wherewithal to understand how to handle those situations." 

George M. Johnson is a Black non-binary author, journalist and activist. They have written for Essence, the Advocate, BuzzFeed News, Teen Vogue, and other publications. All Boys Aren’t Blue is their debut novel, and was People Magazine Best Book of the Year and an Amazon Best Book of the Year.  

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