Book Thoughts: Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak” and Melinda Sordino’s Five Stages of Speaking Out

For the record, I am a serial re-reader. I’m the kind who, if a story tugs on my reader heartstrings, would read a book over and over and over again without ever tiring of the plot lines and the characters.

There, now that’s out of the way, here’s another fact. I love Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. I can no longer count the number of re-reads I’ve given it. I love the novel’s protagonist, Melinda Sordino, and out of that love (and my inherent compulsion for re-reading books and making sense out of almost everything), this post is born. Ta-da! *falling colorful confetti and glitters*

book cover

But seriously now, Melinda went through such a traumatic experience. It’s something no person should ever go through. But the reality of the world we live in contradicts our want of being safe from harm, and thus the painful truth – that some people hurt other people.

Though Melinda dealt with what happened to her with much courage, it wasn’t at all “all” that easy. It took her time, she went through stages, painful ones. It’s like the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – she went from deciding not to speak to coming to terms with what happened to her to finally speaking out. It took Melinda time to talk about being raped. That’s what speaking out does, it can be tough especially when you feel like no one will listen to you. This world we’re living in puts too much emphasis on speaking out and not enough on listening.

Alright, well, enough about me and what I think. Let me re-focus the spotlight on Melinda.

– Melinda Sordino’s Five Stages of Speaking Out –

Denial aka Deciding not to Speak:

“It is easier not to say anything. Shut your trap, button your lip, can it. All that crap you hear on TV about communication and expressing feelings is a lie. Nobody really wants to hear what you have to say.”

Anger aka Refusing to Speak:

“The suffragettes fought for the right to speak. They were attacked, arrested, and thrown in jail for daring to do what they wanted. Like they were, I am willing to stand up for what I believe. No one should be forced to give speeches. I choose to stay silent.”

“Lawyers on TV always tell their clients not to say anything. The cops say that thing: ‘Anything you say will be used against you.’ Self-incrimination. I looked it up. Three-point vocab word. So why does everyone makes such a big hairy deal about me not talking? Maybe I don’t want to incriminate myself. Maybe I don’t like the sound of my voice. Maybe I don’t have anything to say.”

Speak

Bargaining aka Coming to Terms:

“Was I raped?

Oprah: “Let’s explore that. You said no. He covered your mouth with his hand. You were thirteen years old. It doesn’t matter that you were drunk. Honey, you were raped. What a horrible, horrible thing for you to live though. Didn’t you ever think of telling anyone? You can’t keep this inside forever. Can someone get her a tissue?”

Sally Jessy: “I want this boy held responsible. He is to blame for this attack. You do know it was an attack, don’t you? It was not your fault. I want you to listen to me, listen to me, listen to me. It was not your fault. This boy is an animal.”

Jerry: “Was it love? No. Was it lust? No. Was it tenderness, sweetness, the First Time they talk about in magazines? No, no, no, no, no! Speak up, Meatilda, ah, Melinda, I can’t hear you!”

My head is killing me, my throat is killing me, my stomach bubbles with toxic waste. I just want to sleep. A coma would be nice. Or amnesia. Anything, just to get rid of this, these thoughts, whispers in my mind. Did he rape my head, too?”

Depression/Caving In:

“I shouldn’t have raked anything. Look what I started. I shouldn’t have tried something new. I should have stayed in the house. Watched cartoons with a double-sized bowl of Cheerios. Should have stayed in my room. Stayed in my head.”

Acceptance aka Speaking Out:

“I think about lying down. No, that would not do. I crouch by the trunk, my fingers stroking the bark, seeking a Braille code, a clue, a message on how to come back to life after my long undersnow dormancy. I have survived. I am here. Confused, screwed up, but here. So, how can I find my way? Is there a chain saw of the soul, an ax I can take to my memories or fears! I dig my fingers into the dirt and squeeze. A small, clean part of me waits to warm and burst through the surface. Some quiet Melindagirl I haven’t seen in months. That is the seed I will care for.”

“IT happened. There is no avoiding it, no forgetting. No running away, or flying, or burying, or hiding. Andy Evans raped me in August when I was drunk and too young to know what was happening. It wasn’t my fault. He hurt me. It wasn’t my fault. And I’m not going to let it kill me. I can grow.”

It may have took Melinda some time but eventually she speaks out and she finds people who want to listen to her. Still, there may be other Melindas out there who may not be as lucky to have willing, listening ears for them. There could still be other victims out there who can’t speak out.

I think it’s high time for all of us to be listeners and not just speakers.

P.S. Expect that this is not the last time you’ll hear from me about Speak.

P.P.S. If you have the time, go watch the movie adaptation of this book. It’s good. =)

P.P.P.S. That’s a 13-year old Kristen Stewart playing Melinda Sordino by the way.

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