Has a book ever moved you to action or changed the way you think? Do you have a well-worn novel that makes you feel less alone? Many of our staff, volunteers, and supporters can point to such a book (or two!). Books can break silences, help to heal traumas, and shed light on someone else’s experience.
National Read a Book Day was this month: a holiday meant to encourage anyone who can to take up a new book. In honor of that holiday, we asked our staff and volunteers to recommend a book that was empowering, survivor focused, anti-oppression, or healing. We are thrilled with the variety of the responses.
Here are 10 such books out of many suggestions and links to their audiobooks. Thank you to everyone who took a moment to recommend their favorites. As with many books that address sexual violence, these books may be triggering in different ways, so we’ve included brief content notes below the book descriptions.
An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay, tells the fictional story of a horrifying kidnapping in Haiti and the lasting trauma inflicted. Gay’s debut novel was met with widespread praise.
Content note: sexual violence, violence, racism, trauma.
Did You Ever Have a Family?, by Bill Clegg, covers “a multitude of perspectives on multiple traumas.”
Content note: sexual violence, substance abuse, domestic abuse.
Hunger, by Roxane Gay, is a deeply personal memoir that touches on many subjects, but ultimately focuses on food, body, and effects of trauma.
Content note: sexual violence, body image, racism.
Sex Object, by Jessica Valenti, is a personal memoir that follows the author’s life and the repeated sexual trauma she survived along the way. “Gritty and real,” “showcases resilience.”
Content note: childhood sexual abuse, sexual violence, substance abuse.
Surviving the Silence: Black Women's Stories of Rape, by Charlotte Pierce-Baker, is a collection of first-person narratives.
Content note: sexual violence, racism.
The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, is a best-selling memoir that covers the author’s violent nomadic childhood. An “incredible true story of resilience.”
Content note: depictions of childhood sexual abuse, violence, racism, and substance abuse.
The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah, tells the story of two sisters living in WWII-era France. “Epic story of survival in every way.”
Content note: scenes of sexual violence, violence, religious discrimination, miscarriage, suicide.
When You Are Engulfed In Flames, by David Sedaris, is a collection of personal essays by Sedaris, an American humorist, featuring one that recalls unwanted sexual advances. Sedaris examines the incidents in the periphery, giving few details while speaking volumes. “Beautifully written.”
Content note: sexual violence, substance abuse.
Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor, follows a young woman in a post-apocalyptic magical Africa on her journey to become a sorceress. “Ultimately an empowering story. I found it quite amazing.”
Content note: vivid sexual violence, violence, racism, mutilation.
Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape, coedited by Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman, is a meditation on shifting from the “No Means No” model of 1974, using essays from a variety of authors. “A series of essays about what the world could look like without rape.”
Content note: racism, sexual violence.
BARCC offers free and confidential services to survivors of sexual violence and their loved ones. Learn more about our services online or call our 24-hour hotline at 800-841-8371.