There are two kinds of readers: those of us that are required to read by means of education or otherwise and those of us that read even after being required to, to escape or to further our own perspective of any given subject.
Between non-fiction and fiction, most readers simply gravitate to the unknown; be it for knowledge or what-have-you. But for any reader, what can be difficult to read is a story that resonates with our own.
And what makes stories that we relate to sometimes very hard to read is the fact that not only do we identify with them, but we find ourselves re-living our own experiences and sometimes our own traumas while being forced to recognize that we were not alone in those experiences.
That is exactly what the compilation of dispatches from rape culture collected by Roxane Gay have done.
Under the title of “Not That Bad,” with its yellow underline beneath the “that,” the 339 pages tell stories that we have already heard.
“It was comforting, perhaps, to tell myself that what I went through “wasn’t that bad,’” wrote Gay in her introduction.
When she was 12 years old, Gay was a victim of gang-rape.
She is, in fact, the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel, and for this collection of dispatches she brought together over 25 essay authors to create an anthology that is both honest and deeply personal. Her own story is among them.
But the thing about reading content of this subject is that after the #MeToo movement was sparked by the Harvey Weinstein story; every nook and cranny of media is currently flowing with stories, poems and quotes of women sharing their accounts. Their stories are so prevalent to us now that they aren’t new; they’ve become like episodes of Law and Order, so we know what happens next.
This makes it easy to question why a book would be needed to hold a bunch of essays on the subject in the first place.
That rallies an even easier answer; it was compiled because of how precious the voices in each story are, and how badly they need a tangible platform to be presented in. Even though each story should be hard to read for all readers.
This is because even if a reader has not experienced what these stories tell, they are forced to imagine someone that has — someone they have never met before, but might look like someone they know, someone they love. And that in itself can be terrifying.
The reader is forced to identify with the voices in the stories and the only escape from their hauntingly honest accounts is to put the book down.
If this sounds morbid to you, then I’m sure you’re wondering ‘why read it then?’
Imagine if you wrote one of the stories and that the account was yours to tell. Imagine how much courage it would take to actually write the story down and share it with the world. Imagine how much healing occurred by putting that story to words. Now, imagine why the actual author would want someone to read it.
From the outside, the simple reason to read the stories is for the fact of understanding the perspectives as many readers would do.
The anthology covers more than just another rape story though; it covers the exploration of the rape epidemic among refugees, child molestation, street harassments and more.
So just as any reader would; read to broaden your perspective of the world we live in, and read for those that were brave enough to want you to read their stories — even though you’ve already heard them.