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Book Club Series — Know My Name

"In this system, who is untouchable? Who is disposable? Whose lives are we intent on preserving? Who goes unaccounted for?" — Chanel Miller

Welcome to the Women for Women International Book Club! This month we’re reading Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller.   

Writer, artist, and activist Chanel Miller shook the world when her victim impact statement regarding Brock Turner’s sentencing for her sexual assault went viral. In her bestselling, award-winning memoir that has topped best book lists, Chanel emerged from behind the name “Emily Doe” to claim her story and power.  

What is Know My Name about? 

Book Cover - Know My Name by Chanel Miller



Trigger warning: Sexual assault

How did the night Brock Turner sexually assaulted Chanel Miller impact her life?  

Chanel is a literature major with a smart sense of humor who loves drawing and loves her family and friends. The trauma of the assault stole her privacy, safety, intimacy, and voice. Throughout the book, Chanel demonstrates how the justice system, institutions, and culture fail women and especially survivors of sexual assault: Trials drag families and victims through a long, grueling process that prevents healing as people are forced to relive their trauma again and again while impugning their character and self-worth. Institutions fail to provide justice and take responsibility, just as much as individuals do.  

Chanel contextualizes the injustices of her pain within a culture that excuses assailants and patriarchal violence at the expense of women’s safety, from the Isla Vista massacre to the backlog of rape kits to the ways women are forced to make themselves small to walk their own streets. From her heartbreaking accounts of her isolation and trauma, Chanel also details the hope she found in the people who fought for her and in reclaiming her voice. When her impact statement went viral as she began to seize her story, she found people sending love to drown out the hate and indifference of detractors.  

And she inspired change: The judge who gave a lenient sentence has been recalled. California laws have changed to expand definitions of rape and the mandatory minimum sentencing for sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated person. 

In this reclamation of her identity—her name—Chanel shows the strength it has taken to rebuild her life and power. She uses it to offer victims comfort, solidarity, and the knowledge that there is someone out there working to change this world.  

Discussion Questions 

Check out the discussion questions below and connect with readers on Instagram to share your reactions, thoughts and questions by using the hashtag #WFWIBookClub, and tagging us with @womenforwomen. We want to hear what you think—share with us your take on the book! 

  1. Did you have any preconceptions about sexual assault prior to reading Know My Name? How has your understanding—of victims, perpetrators, or sexual assault itself—changed, if at all?* 

  2. How did the memoir demonstrate the way media and legal systems frame perpetrators versus victims? Who has the power to tell their story? Who is offered sympathy and humanity and who is not? How does that affect people? 

  3. Chanel weaves together several elements throughout her memoir, such as the Isla Vista massacre, the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, street harassment, and more. Why does she do this? What does it say about misogyny and the value of women’s safety? Of women’s bodies? Of women? 

  4. The case lasted for years, involving several people, especially Chanel’s family and loved ones. How did the case impact Chanel as the victim, including the people she cares about?  

  5. Throughout the book, there are many heroes, from Chanel’s loved ones to the Swedes to the nurses and officers who cared for her to the district attorney and more. Why is this important? What is the significance of having heroes in stories about injustice? 

  6. Chanel is a Chinese American woman, who emphasizes this heritage throughout her memoir. Recently, she has been using her voice to advocate against the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Why is being Chinese American important to her and her story? What does it say about privilege and power when it comes to legal systems? Institutions and culture? What is the importance of intersectionality?  

  7. During her trial, Chanel was persistently asked targeted questions (about her clothing, her previous relationship with alcohol, her previous dating experience). Did her experience with sexism feel familiar to you? How so?* 

  8. In different ways, Chanel shows the pain and isolation of sexual assault. How did systems and/or culture exacerbate that pain or ignore it? What do victims need in terms of support? How can extend empathy and solidarity to victims?  

  9. Many people think rapists are strangers who jump out of bushes and attack in alleyways, when the reality is that the majority of cases involve a perpetrator the victim already knows. As Chanel says, “The friendly guy who helps you move and assists senior citizens in the pool is the same guy who assaulted me. One person can be capable of both. Society often fails to wrap its head around the fact that these truths often coexist, they are not mutually exclusive. Bad qualities can hide inside a good person. That’s the terrifying part.” Discuss why it’s difficult for people to hold these two truths.*  

  10. What was the effect of the viral victim impact statement’s author being “Emily Doe” when it was first released? How did people respond to the letter and what effect did that response have on Chanel? On other victims?  

  11. This memoir and its title refer to Chanel releasing her name. What was behind her decision to do so? Why was that important to her? Why might someone choose to come forward with their name and what happened to them and—after having read this book—why not?  

  12. The book’s cover takes inspiration from the Japanese art of kintsugi, repairing broken pieces of pottery with gold. How does that relate to Chanel’s story?  

*Questions from or adapted from the Know My Name reader’s group questions.