Monday, March 30, 2020

"SHOUT" - Laurie Halse Anderson

It's embarrassing to me that "Shout" is the first I've heard of Laurie Halse Anderson, though I can assure you it won't be the last of her writing that I seek out.

As a longtime activist in the area of sexual violence and domestic abuse, I've spent much of my adult life traveling the roads in my wheelchair raising awareness and funds for a variety of organizations. So many aspects of this book felt familiar to me, especially once we reached the second section of the book and started looking at her efforts to speak out, to reach out to youths, and the censorship she encountered again and again.

I've shared my story for years, at times through writing and poetry, though seldom (if ever) as successfully and with such remarkable imagery as is created in "Shout." While some have felt the first section to be the weaker section, I simply can't imagine "Shout" without it as it sets the stage for the rest of the book and, I think quite importantly, provides a foundation for the words, experiences, and images that will follow.

As someone who has likely caved in too easily to the user of graphic language in my writing, I marveled at Halse Anderson's ability to write honestly and with tremendous rawness without ever crossing that line into offensive. There are parts of "Shout" difficult to read, but she has earned the write to create this work in just the way it's created.

"Shout" vividly creates the transitions Halse Anderson has experienced in her own healing, her growing sense of empowerment, and the honest, warranted cynicism that trauma often creates.

I loved everything about "Shout," though that feels a little weird to say given the subject matter and the reality that you're being invited into reading someone's most traumatic life experiences. The language is beautifully constructed, the entire framework of the book powerfully built. "Shout" deals with challenging subjects, yet it does so in a way that is accessible and largely avoids traumatizing the reader.

Easily one of my favorite books of 2019, "Shout" makes me want to instantly pick up other books by Laurie Halse Anderson and also led to my following her here - and I tend to not follow a lot of writers.

While survivors of trauma should note that the book does at times contain graphic language and imagery, I'm truly amazed at how Halse Anderson can speak her truth and yet hold a safe space for her readers as well.

As the entire book is, indeed, in poetry be aware that if you're looking for strict narrative structure that "Shout" doesn't have it. Personally, I think the book is that much better for it.

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