UT’s Campus Events Board hosted author Chanel Miller to speak about her book “Know My Name” on Tuesday. This event was held as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Chanel Miller was a victim of sexual assault, and during the case she did not want people to know her true identity, so she was instead referred to as Emily Doe. Several years later, she chose to reveal her name, and wrote a New York Times bestselling memoir about her trauma and the courage she had as she went through the court proceedings.
When it came to Miller’s writing of the book, she treated it as a mass thank-you letter to everyone who stood by her and helped her along the way.
“I received so many incredible letters from people, and I just thought that I will never be able to respond to each one individually, but my editor said to think of this book as a thank-you note, like a way of speaking to each person as an individual in a very intimate way,” Miller said.
“That helped me, almost writing it as a thank-you note to all the people who acknowledge my existence and my story, because the book wouldn't exist without them.”
The book took Miller two and a half years to write and edit, but she never gave up. She took time to process the information she was writing about when she needed to and gave herself the grace to rest as she listened to her body, but she always returned to writing.
Thinking of the book as a letter made writing easier for Miller as it seemed to calm her introverted nature as the quiet space let her feel as though she was speaking to just one person and allowed her to create the message she wanted to share.
“Writing is such a quiet, sacred space, and I think even though the book is technically out in the world for anyone to pick up, which is really strange when I think about it for too long, the reason I wrote it is because I want to be the voice with you when you’re going through something, a voice you can revisit and you can trust, a more gentle voice to put in your head before you go to sleep, that's what is important to me,” Miller said.
During the Q&A, Miller received a question about her experience as an Asian American artist, to which she spoke to the racist comments she has received and how she learned that no matter who she was, insults were going to flood in anyways.
“I am very grateful to have art to process what is happening. I didn’t really grow up asking myself how I felt about things. As an Asian American you don’t grow up being centered inside stories, being encouraged to say how you feel walking away from this, or what would you like to see, or what would it feel like to see more people who look like you, or would you like to have a seat at the table or be in a higher position of power,” Miller said.
“These were not questions that were normally posed. In my art, these are the questions I pose to myself to start generating my own power, and respecting my own opinion and to center myself because still that is hard to do because it was never natural growing up, so now I have to actually practice it.”
Savon Caldwell, UT senior, mediated the Q&A portion of the event for CEB and responded to Miller’s statements.
“I absolutely agree because being a person of color as well, we can share in that experience that we're not in that high position of authority, we’re not always seeing out and about,” Caldwell said.
“Sometimes we get turned off in the shadow and our stories get ignored, but I'm happy that now, as time has gone on, it's kind of like as I've grown up, people of color, we've come to the forefront and now stories can be told. People can see the world from our perspective because we live a very different experience than others do.”
Miller agreed with Caldwell’s statement and added onto it.
“The feeling of marginalization shouldn't be so normalized, and I think another disturbing realization is that our stories have been told through movies, but not from us,” Miller said.
“That's another problem, and so that disturbs me to how we are the most qualified to provide that authentic point of view for how little we are consulted or asked to do these things and so we have to assert ourselves and to imagine ourselves into these positions because we don't see them, but I think that's happening now.”
Miller shared during the event that she is currently working on new projects, including a fictional middle grade book.