Surviving: a review of Shout

By Gabrielle Everall | 07 Aug 19


Shout: The True Story of a Survivor Who Refused to Be Silenced

Laurie Halse Anderson

Text Publishing

Laurie Halse Anderson was the author of Speak. A New York Times bestseller about a girl dealing with the trauma of her experience of rape. Anderson was raped when she was thirteen and Speak is based on this, but now Anderson has written Shout: The True Story of a Survivor Who Refused to Be Silenced, an autobiographical collection of poetry about Anderson’s experience of being raped written twenty-five years after the event.

The two books combined have sold eight million copies. But Anderson writes in Shout how attempts were made to censor her books and censor her from speaking in public. In her poem “librarian on the cusp of courage” Anderson writes, “’I loved your book,’ says the librarian/’Prom, not Speak,”/I open my mouth to-/’Course I can’t have it in my library,’ she adds/I close my mouth/’The main character,’ she rushes on/I listen/’She’s disrespectful to authority, cuts class, sleeps with her boyfriend . . .” (188).

Anderson has spoken to more than a million teenagers since Speak was published. But, attempts were made to stop Anderson from speaking in public. Once when she was invited to speak at a high school in New Jersey a fire alarm erupts; the principal tried to silence Anderson. But she still managed to talk to girls in the parking lot about sex, rape, bodies, touching, consent and violence (187). The things the principal thinks never happens in his school (187).

When Anderson toured Australia, a school in Ballarat cancelled her appearance. Instead she spoke to children at a public library in Ballarat where the librarian asked her to be sensitive about the sexual abuse scandal in the town (249).

Anderson’s poems in Shout speak of the effects of being sexually assaulted. Anderson writes: “this book reeks/of my fear/of depression’s black dogs howling/and the ancient shames riding/my back, their claws/buried deep” (3).

Anderson’s stance on rape culture is beneficial to the reader. It raises awareness and educates. It is especially helpful to other survivors of sexual abuse. To know you are not alone and to keep surviving and thriving.

She writes of her first experience of being sexually harassed by boys at her local swimming pool. In this experience she feels like dog meat. In the poem called ‘Chum’ she writes: “The boys circle, then frenzy-feed/crotch-grabbing, chest-pinching/hate spitting/the water afroth/with glee and destruction” (24).

Anderson writes about 1972, when she got her first period. Also, in 1972 it was still legal for husbands to rape their wives (Anderson 39). In 1972 it was legal for men to grope women and women were fired at work if they were pregnant (Anderson 39).

Anderson writes of her experience of being sexually harassed at Universities. In one experience she wanted to get a scholarship to study in Peru where she would translate Spanish. But the department head sexually harassed her and she had to give up on her dream of translation.

She writes on how she became a journalist and had to cover a rape trial in which the rapist was barely punished.

She writes about spiked drinks, dicks, punching Nazi’s, Ken dolls and #MeToo.

She writes about a girl who was raped at a party by boys she thought she could trust. The boys who raped her graduated on time, but the girl got PTSD preventing her from attending college (211). While the boys started again with clean slates, the girl served a life sentence for being raped (212).

The boy who raped Anderson when she was thirteen was ironically at first a source of comfort. When Anderson started high school, she thought she wanted a boyfriend, but she realised that was naïve. In her poem “IT, part 2 – trees” Anderson at first meets the boys kiss with delight (54). But then the boy went too far. While she is being raped, she looks up at the trees, she goes outside herself. She writes about the rapist: “and when he was done/using my body/he stood and zipped his jeans/lit a cigarette/and walked away” (54).

The rapist later dies in a game of chicken. Anderson went to her rapist’s funeral. She feels “… so grateful IT was gone/and it was over” when she cries “inside/out” at his funeral. But she writes: “I did not know/that the haunting/had just begun” (58). It seems a bit ironic that Anderson went to her rapist’s funeral. But some survivors still associate with their abusers in some way. In no way should survivors be judged for this.

Christopher was the name of author Roxanne Gay’s abuser. Gay writes: “I wish I could tell you I never spoke to Christopher again, but I did. That may be what shames me most, that after everything he did to me, I went back, and allowed him to continue using me until my family moved a few months later. I allowed him to continue using me because I didn’t know what else to do. Or I let him use me because after what happened in the woods, I felt so worthless I believed I didn’t deserve any better” (46).

Anderson writes how she hid her feelings after she was raped: “after I was raped/I could hardly think at all/because feelings hid in the closet,/under the bed, shadow-cloaked/and hungry, dark mountains/and oceans of noise threatened/ to spill over if I opened/my mouth, I was afraid/I’d never stop screaming” (59).

Anderson writes how difficult it was for her to trust after she got raped: “I didn’t have real friends because a friend is/someone you trust and trust never came easy after/that boy raped me” (64).

Anderson didn’t speak of her rape to her family or anybody at the time or for a long time. She writes: “when horrible things happened that we didn’t talk about…being raped; we/definitely didn’t talk about rape” (67).  She writes how words like trauma were not used then and of the danger of not treating your pain. Anderson writes: “untreated pain/is a cancer of the soul/that can kill you” (69).