cover image Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl

Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl

Jeannie Vanasco. Tin House, $24.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-947793-45-3

Vanasco (The Glass Eye) was raped during her sophomore year of college, and in this powerful memoir, she confronts her assailant, a man she calls Mark. Vanasco and Mark became friends at 13, and in 2003, while on break from Northwestern University, Vanasco attended a party at the house where Mark lived. She became drunk and Mark took her to his room in the basement. Vanasco graphically describes what followed: Mark undressed her, penetrated her vaginally with his fingers, masturbated over her while she cried, and told her: “It’s just a dream.” Fourteen years later, Vanasco contacted Mark to discuss the assault and here delves into their uncomfortable email exchanges, phone calls, and meetings. Mark has become a remorseful loner, and reveals to her that he’s still a virgin. Vanasco worries about giving him a voice in her book: “But by interviewing him, I also can invert the power dynamic... he’ll probably come across as too defensive. And maybe I want that.” In unadorned prose, the author interweaves her exchanges with Mark with stories of other predatory men she’s known, including a high school teacher who punished her after she rejected him. This is a painful reminder of the ugly ways some men treat women, and Vanasco’s nuanced story will resonate with those who’ve endured sexual inappropriateness in any form. (Oct.)