Trigger/Content Warnings: Rape, sexual assault, sexual violence, physical abuse, emotional abuse, domestic abuse, homophobia, transphobia, incest, child molestation.
Official Blurb: In this valuable and timely anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay has collected original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, and bullied” for speaking out.
Highlighting the stories of well-known actors, writers, and experts, as well as new voices being published for the first time, Not That Bad covers a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation and street harassment.
Often deeply personal and always unflinchingly honest, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.
My Take: 5/5 Stars
I was seventeen when I was raped. I was a virgin. A straight-A student, headed to a good university, one of the best. I wore hoodies and jeans and skater shoes and gloves, always gloves, helped with the touch issues I’d been manifesting but was silent about. I had only had one sip of alcohol in my life, that time when I was eleven, and I found hers stashed away under the sink. It was disgusting. I wasn’t any of things I’d been trained to believe girls who got raped were. I was safe. I thought I loved him, and that made me safe, too. But I had no idea what love was. Love is not rape, though I was confused by that for a long while, too. It was confusing because someone like me could not be raped. That’s what they told us. And certainly not by someone like him. We could only be raped if we stumbled home drunk and alone down a dark alley wearing a short skirt with our underwear showing. Otherwise we were safe.
How ridiculous that sounds. But it’s what we’re taught. And we need books like NOT THAT BAD to dispel this disgusting farce. None of us are safe. That’s a terrifying, gut-wrenching fact, but it’s a fact. And this is a terrifying, gut-wrenching read to go with that fact. A read that was triggering as all hell. I said in a past post about why I use trigger warnings that I had not yet reviewed a book that triggered me.
Here it is.
And though it did trigger me and it was a slog of a read, and I had to take my time with it, it helped ease some of my suffering, too. This compilation of essays is powerful, raw, real, and diverse. Across the spectrum of race, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, women and men are raped. Over and over and over again. We are not safe, this book screams at the top of its loud, vibrant, varied lungs. None of us.
Yet we are also not alone. The stories contained in this book were hard to swallow, but they made me feel less alone. The words helped me, after I waded through the shock of hearing them, begin to untangle the knot of emotions left behind when you are raped. Shame and guilt and rage and despair and confusion and loneliness and doubt. God, so much doubt. To hear all these emotions I didn’t think I deserved to feel echoed in the voices of others eased a pain I didn’t know I’d been nursing.
So to those considering this book, but especially rape survivors, I say this: This book is hard and it is heavy and it hurts. If you’re not ready yet, I understand. If you’re not ready ever, I also understand. Choice is yours here, and I want you to claim it without shame.
As for me? I will never not 5-star this book. I will never not recommend this book, with the aforementioned caveats, because it brings forward stories to shine light onto the dark narrative of safety we’ve crafted for ourselves. And I think it’s time that narrative was torn asunder.
*I listened to this book on Audible and each story was narrated by its author. It was incredibly powerful in this format.
As always, be kind to yourselves,