Tuesday, March 31, 2020

"She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement" - Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey

There's no denying the power of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey's "She Said," an extensively detailed account of their efforts in the investigation of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and the investigation's impact on the growing #MeToo Movement. The book also delves into the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, though it does so definitely to a lesser degree.

If I were to compare "She Said" to any other book I've read in recent years, it would likely be last year's "Parkland," a book that covered similarly challenging material that was controversial, front-page news, and very much based within the worlds of journalism and activism.

While I rated "Parkland" a 5-star book, for me "She Said" fell shy of the lofty 5-star rating mostly due to the writing of the book itself rather than any concerns about the actual material. The material itself is powerfully documented, thoroughly sourced, riveting in presentation, and absolutely impossible to ignore.

However, "Parkland" had a better sense of rhythm and made for a more engaging read from beginning to end. In "Parkland," it felt like the author understood that the information being presented was intellectually challenging and emotionally demanding and, as such, paced the book in a way that allowed the reader moments to breathe and re-engage. "Parkland" allowed for emotional connection with the story and its subjects, while "She Said" reads from beginning to end like a more detailed version of the journalistic reports that were documented. While it may be reasonable that the book is rather exhausting, it at times makes for a difficult read and, as well, creates a need to occasionally put the book down for a bit. While I understand many haven't done this - I've read multiple reviews from people who report having read it in one day - I think your average reader, especially those having experienced any form of sexual harassment, may very well become emotionally drained by the writing style and may become at more risk of experiencing some sort of trauma or trigger from the book.

"She Said," as well, is interesting in that it does detour into discussing the Kavanaugh hearings. While I understand this decision, I ultimately feel like that detour creates a tonal shift that doesn't entirely work. It's interesting material, of course, but I wish it had simply been a separate book.

However, there was never a time I considered less than 4-stars for "She Said." The documentation is horrifying. If you've found yourself at all sympathizing with Weinstein, "She Said" will destroy your sympathies simply by documenting the numerous reports that are incredibly well documented and often times confirmed. The accounts of payoffs and outward attempts, often successful, at interrupting investigations and news articles are amazing to read and disturbing beyond words. The work of these journalists is simply astounding and after reading this book it's nearly impossible to even look at Weinstein as his trial currently goes on.

I deeply appreciated and respected "She Said," though it would be ludicrous to call it an enjoyable read. It's a difficult read and it should be a difficult read. Written very much in a journalistic style and in a font that enhances its journalistic tone, "She Said" is an important book that should be read and shared and absorbed and acted upon. While I couldn't help but wish for some different literary choices that could have enhanced the reading experience, there's a strong argument that the authors chose the tone the book needed to have.

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