Turning pain into art and an unintentional mission. SHOUT is the story of a girl who lost her voice so she wrote herself a new one. I am in awe of anyone who can write a memoir. To be able to look at the events of your life and select the ones that shaped you? I honestly cannot imagine. My life has been pretty much idyllic yet the thought of examining it so closely makes me shudder. I am not brave; I’m a Hufflepuff (no shade to you brave Puffs!). Just let me remember the good stuff and blindly appreciate the life I live. Someone who can write a memoir poetically? Well, that just blows my mind. But Laurie Halse Anderson has done just that.
Anderson begins her memoir with her unstable childhood which comes to an end (the childhood part, not the unstable part) with her rape at age 13. Going through your teenage years are hard enough without the trauma of rape. Oh, Laurie. Your various methods of attempted pain relief are more than justified. The power of one teacher noticing you. How that can change everything (those anecdotes always hit home for me, a teacher for 27 years). Your rebirth began there but was realized during your thirteen months as a foreign exchange student in Denmark. Nothing grows you like a challenging new experience and living in a country with such a difficult language is about as challenging as it gets. Laurie thrived. Then college, a linguistics degree, a journalist, a husband, motherhood (all within 40 pages). End of Part I.
Part II is the writing, publishing, and effects of her novel, Speak, which have been and will continue to be far reaching. I love her account of meeting Walter Dean Myers at the ceremony for the National Book Award. Walter told her that the pair of them “wrote for the . . . children with scars, inside and out, kids whose childhoods disappeared in the rearview mirror a long time ago.” Through Speak, LHA has become a spokesperson for speaking out. She was #metoo before there was a movement. Adults and teens alike write her and tell her their terrible stories and she hears them and sees them and listens to them and she speaks out. She is also outspoken about censorship. Because she has to be in order for her own story to be heard. In its twenty plus years of publication, Speak continues to be on lists of frequently most challenged books. God forbid teens read the truth. Her poem, “Innocence” is devastating in its accuracy:
censoring my books
in the name of ‘innocence’
will not build the fence you want
the false innocence
you render for them
by censoring truth
protects only you
Thank you for the gift of this book. I cannot wait to put it in the hands of teens and adults alike. Reader of this review, I beg you to listen to the audiobook. LHA herself narrates it and her narration is a thing of beauty.