Book Thoughts: Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak” and Rape

I can no longer count the number of times I’ve read Laurie Halse Anderson‘s Speak. It’s easily one of the most abused books on my shelves – page corners folded to mark favorite parts, quotes and dialogues highlighted so they’re easier to find, yellowing paper, old book smell – I almost had it memorized but that still doesn’t stop me from re-reading it over and over and over again.

More than being one of the most beaten books, it’s also one of the most important ones I own.

book cover

It was Anderson’s protagonist that got me reading, Melinda Sordino, at first. She’s awkward, a misfit and she just wants to get out of high school alive. It was very easy for me to feel and relate to Melinda because her voice in the story was so clear and also at that time when I first read Speak I was sort of going through the same things she went through. Kids can be mean to their fellow youngsters, if you know what I mean.

Eventually, as I got older and started losing count of the number of re-reads I’ve given the book, I found that more than Melinda  it was Speak’s topic that pushed me to turn the pages. It was a sensitive topic, yes, but sadly it’s a part of all of our reality.


It’s sick. It’s a painful truth, a hard pill to swallow. But it happens even if we don’t want to talk about it. It happens more often than we’d like to imagine. All the reports we hear on TV about, that doesn’t even bring the real numbers up, no, not even by a quarter, and it angers me.

I come from a family composed mostly of women – three sisters then my mom – really, my dad is the only guy in our household. Growing up, our parents have greatly been protective of us; we’ve always been reminded that while there are still many good people out there, there’s also a number who carry bad intentions within their hearts and that we’re more at risk because we’re girls. Still, no matter how careful you are, bad things, or in my more normal verbal language, shit happens and happen it did.

A couple of years ago when she was a high school freshman, my youngest sister became a victim of attempted rape. Luckily, there were people passing by the place where the perp brought her and she was rescued. The pervert was caught but her paid bail and is now again free.

What I wouldn’t give to get my hands on him and make sure he won’t ever get another chance to do what he almost did to my sister.

My sister clammed up after that incident. She went through her days doing what she was supposed to but she became unnervingly quiet. It took months before things went back to normal, well, as normal as they could get anyway. Until now there would still be times when she’d be totally quiet.

The bruises, the cuts may heal but the psychological trauma lingers long after the last scabs have flaked off. For many rape victims, it takes a lifetime to deal with what happened to them.

Rape is a highly under-reported crime. According to estimates, for every 4 to 10 rapes, only 1 incidence is reported. This gross under-reporting is largely attributed to the victim’s feelings of shame and guilt, their fear of more injury and the belief that the legal system won’t be able to help them. Victims of rape can be of any age: they can be as young as 15 months old and as old as 82 but the highest incidence rate is in girls and women aged 16 to 24.

And here’s even more disturbing findings about rape. In the recently published United Nations quantitative study titled “Why Do Some Men Use Violence Against Women and How Can We Prevent It?” researchers found out the following: (1) that rape of an intimate partner (girlfriend, wife, common law wife) was more common that non-partner rape in most sites of the study; (2) rape perpetration started early in life: (3) rape was most commonly motivated by a sense of sexual entitlement (with many of the respondents believing that they have the right to sex regardless of consent); and (4) that the majority of rape perpetrators did not experience any legal consequences. The study was conducted in 6 countries from the Asia and the Pacific region. It may not be a worldwide research but it’s the largest of its kind dealing with this particular subject, that is men and their use of violence, and that has to count.

Speak has been in print since 1999. It was relevant then and now, 14 years since its release, it remains to be, maybe even more.

Though its been challenged and banned repeatedly over its whole publication lifetime, it’s books like Speak, books that deal with subjects that are often too difficult to talk about that get to you. These things happen in real life, and these books could save you – tell you you’re not alone, that there are others out there who went through similar stuff and survived, encourage them to stand up and speak out.

There are other Melindas out there, more than we could ever imagine, more than we would ever know. No matter how much we deny it, rape exists and it victimazes millions of men and women out there. It’s plain wrong and it must be stopped.

Now here’s my call for action.

We’re always told to speak out, stand up for what we think is right, and while those are noble and worthy work, we seem to be forgetting something. We’re putting too much emphasis on speaking out but not enough on listening. Let’s all be listeners and speakers; be ears and mouthpieces. Balance things out, I think that’s what we need. We’ll never know when we’ll be helping someone who so desperately needs to be heard.

You’ll never know, it could also work the other way around.

Here are some resources:

Philippine Commission on Women

Women’s Crisis Center Directory

United Nations Development Fund for Women – Philippines

Pretty Pictures: Favorite Book Covers

The weekly link-up is hosted by The Book Chewers.

So, MV of The Book Chewers posted this linkup, and I just have to put myself out there about the topic. What is it? Book covers of course! Pretty, mysterious, lovely book covers.

We all have times when we don’t know what to read but the itch to get a brand new sparkly book from the bookstore just won’t go away. So you wander around thinking which one to pick up and take home. Sometimes I ask the bookstore people for recommendations but more often I go with my gut instinct. I pick up books by the blurb and, which brings me to the topic finally, book covers.

For me, book covers are more than just lovely pictures fronting books. They mean something, or at least they intended to. The five that I’ve picked mostly lean on to the former but one was just too fun not to include. Here they are:

Reached - Ally Condie

Reached (Matched Trilogy #3) by Ally Condie

I love all of the covers of theI trilogy but somehow this is my favorite among the  three. It’s a picture of a girl breaking out of the glass which encased her which pretty much tells you the gist Reach‘s plot.


Insurgent (Divergent Trilogy #2) by Veronica Roth

Another dystopian read, Insurgent‘s cover features a tree, also the symbol of one of the five factions in the series – Amity. Amity, as described in the book, is one of the essential factions because they sustain the city with food and produce, and that’s exactly what a tree does. It’s a beautiful correlation.

P.S. Plus points if you have the hard cover.

book cover

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Another cover with a tree on it. If you’ve read this novel, then you know that the whole tree allegory – that we can all grow even with all the scars and trauma. If you haven’t read Speak yet, then you better go get it now. It’s not heart-warming or anything but it will make you think.

Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Another cover I like because of the allegory behind it but also because, just like I am partial to covers with trees, I am also partial to covers featuring bodies of water.

Where'd You go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

This one I picked because it’s fun. And look at all those different versions!

So, there are my five favorites. How about you? Sound off at The Book Chewers linkup and let the world know.

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.”


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.