Wednesday, June 27, 2012

RAPE GIRL - Book Review & Author Interview

On first meeting, Alina Klein (link) seems like any other writer--quiet and observant, not too flashy. She's tall with smooth, well-behaved light-brown hair, and she has a reassuring, calm smile.

Alina Klein
Basically, she's the exact opposite of me. 

So when we started talking about our books, and she told me about her latest RAPE GIRL, I knew it was going to be something powerful. A little earthquake.

She explained SPEAK (by Laurie Halse) is about a girl who's raped and doesn't tell anyone, and everything falls apart.

RAPE GIRL is about a girl who's raped and does report it, and everything still falls apart.

And it's based on personal experience.

First, I'll just put it out there, I rarely know the right thing to say at any given moment, which is why I'm a writer and not a public speaker. So I didn't know what to say. I just read her book.

I'm still trying to decide how to explain this small volume that basically says everything. In brief, perfectly worded passages, Alina makes you feel these things through her fictional character Valerie:

-The awkwardness of throwing your first "parents out of town" party.
-The weird-fun-sickness of being drunk for the first time.
-The guilt of being too hungover the next morning to care for your little sister.
-The numb, helpless, confusion of being raped.
-The horror of a rape exam combined with a first-time pelvic exam.
-The shock of learning that telling your mom, reporting it to the police, means telling the world.
-The betrayal of your best friend believing him.
-The strange mind-trip of group therapy and not feeling "raped enough" to be there.
-The inward-turning, the loss of faith in the system, the self-doubt...

I know this sounds like a downer, depressing story, but it's not. It's very enlightening, and it ends on a note of such hope. It's how I understand Alina can meet me and be what she is--confident, calm, reassuring. And she's a tireless supporter of rape victims. (See her "Empowerment Project," link.)

Sure, I cried several times while reading. Alina's a beautiful writer, and it was almost too much to think she'd suffered a similar experience as Val. I also empathized with Val's poor mother, who blamed herself for going out of town and "letting" this happen.

But I'm so glad I read it. It's out now, so run grab a copy--Stat!

Amazon (link)
Barnes & Noble (link)

Now for the interview:

LTM: Everyone's asking (or will), so here goes: How much of RAPE GIRL is your story, and how much is fiction?

ABK: This is a tough question, actually. I have been asked it before, and I know people are interested. But the "real" parts are so entwined in the fiction, it would be difficult to pick them apart without deconstructing the whole story. It's certainly a novel and not an autobiography. To be honest, that's all it ever could be. My own rape and the trial that followed are a blur. The details are long gone, but the emotions have lingered. So I tried to write from those. My personal story was included most often as kernals of truth that I built upon. Like the one I shared in a blog post about the girl who became Valerie's friend.  One scene I did borrow pretty much wholesale from my own life, however, was the one where Valerie is faced down by a group of boys in the school office. Only for me they were at the courthouse.

 LTM: Writing this book took guts, I imagine, going back and facing that experience again. What made you decide to do it? 

ABK: The need to write RAPE GIRL crystallized after I read SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I cried when I reached the end of that book, because unlike Melinda, when I spoke my life exploded. It shouldn't happen that way, but it does, and people need to realize that, or nothing will ever change.

LTM: I loved how you showed Val's inner dialogue when talking with people, then her breakdown. What's the one thing you wished people had said after your experience? (Or the thing someone said that meant the most.)

ABK: I'm sure people said a lot of supportive things to me that I've forgotten. I wish that weren't the case. One thing I think would have meant a lot, and which I'd like to say to every other survivor out there, is from my book:  "They say that rape is the only crime in which the victim has to prove her innocence. And I want you to know, I believe in your innocence. You don't have to prove anything to me."
Get it, share it

LTM: That rape exam was horrifying. Actually, Val's entire experience with police and authorities left me outraged. At the same time, logical Leigh wonders how else can they get evidence? What do you think having gone through it? What must change? What's sort of inevitable?

ABK: I don't know how, or if, the collection process of the rape kits can change. Probably not for the sake of the few cases that actually make it to court. What isn't inevitable is the treatment of survivors by authority figures. There are amazing advocates who travel the country provide training to doctors and law enforcement officers to help them interact in a more empathetic way with survivors. Still, no matter how gentle they may be, each step in the process is one more trauma to navigate after being raped.  The true travesty of rape kits, however, is the fact that hundreds of thousands of them remain untested after survivors underwent the grueling collection process. See for more information. Spread the word.

LTM: As a mother of two girls, I related to the mom-character's guilt feelings. At the same time, I wondered, how can something like this be predicted/prevented? Have you thought of this? I feel sure you have. What's your take?

ABK: Rape can't be predicted or prevented by potential victims. That's my take. You can do everything right and it can still happen to you or to your daughters or to someone else you love. This is why the focus should to be shifted toward educating the people most likely to commit rape and not the ones who may suffer it. Preventing rapists is the only thing that will prevent rape.

LTM: Do you have any sort-of hopes for this book? Other than it being a runaway bestseller, of course (*wink*)

ABK: I have very grand hopes that my book will make a difference. That I can remove the stigma from the word "rape" (with my title alone, yes?) and open the topic for discussion. That girls will read it and know that the darkest times in their lives can be a source of strength and not an obstacle to it. That boys will read it and put themselves in Adam's shoes--and think twice whenever a girl seems less than enthusiastic about being touched. Yeah, I pretty much want to change the world.

Thanks, Alina! You rule. You're an awesome, brave person, and a great friend. Now everyone grab a copy and tell your friends.

And have a great week, reader- and writer-friends~ <3


Natalie Aguirre said...

What a great interview Leigh and Alina. Alina, thanks for being so brave and drawing on your own experiences to write your story. I so love what you hope girls will take from your story. It is such an important message for girls and women. Good luck with your book.

Stina said...

I'm adding the book to my list of books to order. I want this book.

Unfortunately most girls don't report rape, and it's not hard to understand why. Even if it's obvious the guy raped her and no one takes sides (like with a stranger rape), it doesn't make anything about the process easier. It's still traumatic.

These are the YA stories I prefer the most. The ones with a strong message to help girls dealing with a similar crisis.

Old Kitty said...

Hi Leigh, hi Alina! What a catharsis for your book, Alina. I'm so sorry for your horrible experience. Good luck with your powerfully titled book! Take care

Pat Hatt said...

Surely sounds like a powerful read indeed. Hopefully it helps in some way and starts outing the slimeballs that do it.

DL Hammons said...

This does sound like a really powerful read. Your interview was very well done, and you asked the tough questions Kudo's!!

Matthew MacNish said...

As the father of teen girls, I'm not sure I could handle this. But it sounds powerful, and these stories are important, so thanks for featuring Alina, Leigh.

Kelly Polark said...

Thank you, Alina, for your bravery in reporting your rape and in writing a story that will indeed help girls in similar situations and will spread awareness to girls that hopefully will never be in that situation.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Sounds like something I'd like to see on a HS library shelf. Think I'll read this and donate it to MRHS.

Alina Klein said...

Thank you so much for the kind review and interview Leigh! And to everyone for the supportive comments. Much appreciated!

KM Nalle said...

Leigh, Thank you so much for featuring Alina and her book on your blog today. I look forward to reading the book.

Summer Ross said...

Leigh- Great interview- you asked some amazing questions and those are terrific answers. I can connect with this author. I've been there. She was very brave to write about it.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Hard, hard topic, especially when it's based upon personal experience. I was raped as a little girl, and when I confided to a friend (I was in 3rd grade) her mother refused to let her associate with me anymore.

Learned not to "share" anymore.

Colene Murphy said...

Wow, Alina, that's incredible. Thank you for trying to change things and standing up for others rights too. That's just awesome. And this book sounds incredible too! Thanks Leigh!

Theresa Milstein said...

Leigh, thanks for sharing information about this book.

Alina, I can't imagine what it was like to go through all of that. I have chills. As a woman with a young daughter, it's horrifying to know that much hasn't changed in the years since I read a fiction book about rape when I was a teen. Thank you for being brave enough to write your book.

Lisa Gail Green said...

Wow. I'm so glad you spotlighted this book. It sounds amazing and unbelievably important. I read SPEAK and loved it, was outraged by the reaction of some "others" out there. We need more of the truth to spread the word.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Alina, you were brave to live all that turmoil and anguish again. I was a family counselor for a time, and rape victims seem to be victimized all over again by the system, by their family, and sadly by their friends. Leigh, thank you for spotlighting this book written by this brave, intelligent author.

Lydia Kang said...

What a brave book to write. It's so sad that a horrible act can hurt women in so many, awful ways, even when what seems like the right choices are made.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I do believe this book, because of its honesty, will make a huge difference to anyone reading it.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Powerful. I will definitely check out your book. Thanks for such an honest interview.

Talli Roland said...

Wow. What a powerful interview -- and book. Thank you, ladies, for taking on a topic that's been a bit taboo but really shouldn't be.

StratPlayerCJF said...

Wow -- this is a heart-wrenching topic, a gripping interview, and a powerful story. It is so sad that rape has such stigma and causes such serious emotional damage that lingers far beyond the physical trauma.

PK HREZO said...

Wow this sounds so important. I'm so glad Alina put this out there. I've been hearing about it already, and I know it's on many TBR lists. Thanks for the great interview, Leigh.

ALina, here's wishing you all the best with this story! I"m looking forward to reading it.

nutschell said...

great post. This is the kind of book that teens out there need to read. It's an issue that isn't addressed often enough. Bravo to Alina for writing it.

Happy Weekend!

Ella said...

Thank you for being brave and writing your book~ I have added you to my list!
Thank you both for a wonderful interview~ I think it is important to share our world, with each other! Yes, you can change the world, with the courage to share~
Nice to meet you! :D

LTM said...

@Liz--Thanks, girl!

@Chris--It's the truth. I was shocked to learn how poorly rape victims are treated by the system. Change is definitely needed!

@WN--Thanks, and you're right. Knowledge is power! <3

Alina Klein said...

All the warmth and good wishes are so appreciated--thanks, all! Humongous hugs to everyone who added my book to their lists. <3

LisaAnn said...

Wonderful interview. If I am this choked up in an interview, I know I will be doubly and triply and quadruply affected by the actual novel. Now on my "to-read" list.

Thank you, Leigh, for asking great questions, and thank you, Alina, for having the courage and the strength to provide a voice for so many women who go unheard. You are definitely an inspiration.

Shannon Hitchcock said...

I read this book and was extremely moved by it.

I agree Alina, you are a brave woman. Congratulations on such a wonderful book!

Unknown said...

It took me years to watch Schindler's List after it came out, even though I knew I'd watch it one day.

I'm feeling the same way reading about this book. It's something I need to read, but I'm kind of afraid to.

Congratulations to Alina for writing about such a difficult topic!

Claire Hennessy said...

This book is going straight to the top of my TBR pile. I remember reading about this before and thinking it sounds like an amazing book and this post has just rekindled my interest. Thanks.

LTM said...

@Shannon--Thanks for the kind words. I agree with you on ALL! Best~ :o)

Janet Johnson said...

Gosh I missed a lot in my absence from the blogosphere. This book sounds amazing. And the interview was fascinating. Definitely need to read this.