Mark was one of Jeannie's best friends in high school and early college--until the night when she got drunk for the first time and he sexually assaulted her. By the definition of the times, that's what it was called: sexual assault. Under the FBI's legal definition as of 2013, it is called rape.
Words matter. And so Jeannie Vanasco delivers Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl, a thoughtful, conflicted, harrowing examination of what Mark did--with his words alongside her own.
From the outset, she worries about the fallout from her choice to include Mark: she feels she should hate him, and she doesn't want to be a bad feminist. But Mark was such a good friend; many of her memories of him remain positive ones. "I doubt I'm the only woman sexually assaulted by a friend and confused about her feelings." Like her first book, Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl is aware of itself, frequently commenting on process and prospective readership. This kind of self-regard is difficult to pull off, but it is clearly Vanasco's natural style, and she wields it expertly.
The memoir alternates between transcriptions of recorded conversations between Jeannie and Mark, and Vanasco's reactions to those recordings. Some of her brave and difficult work here is to consider the line between good and bad people, and good and bad actions. This narrator is tough, vulnerable and meticulous; the resulting memoir is heartfelt, painful and essential. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia