REVIEW: ‘Shout’ memoir gives personal insight to a contemporary conversation

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The cover of Laurie Halse Anderson's memoir "Shout." (Courtesy Photo by Penguin Random House).

My first Laurie Halse Anderson novel was not Anderson’s groundbreaking 1999 novel about sexual assault, “Speak.” Instead, the first novel I read by Anderson was “Twisted,” shortly after my older sister read it.

This was followed by “Catalyst,” “The Impossible Knife of Memory” and “Wintergirls.” It wasn’t until late high school or perhaps even early college that I finally read “Speak.”

However, I was quick to pick up Anderson’s most recent release, “Shout.” For 20 years, Anderson has been giving a voice to teenage girls through her young adult fiction. Through “Shout,” Anderson finally shares her own story in a nonfiction memoir.

Written in verse, “Shout” follows Anderson’s childhood, stories of her parents, the writing of “Speak” and her other novels and visits to schools as a published author. Anderson delves into a host of timely topics surrounding female agency and sexual assault.

With all of that content, there are times — especially in the second of three parts of the memoir — where Anderson’s writing doesn’t feel as connected as it could be. Some poems are not succinct and coherent with the rest.

However, despite poems that didn’t flow smoothly with the rest of the memoir, the overall package still packed an emotional punch. Anderson establishes herself as a master of tone and language use in poetry.

Anderson is known as a fiction author, so it was refreshing to see the narrative-based nature of her fiction replicated in poetry that still managed to be lyrical and natural to read. The switch of genre was no problem for this book.

There were two subjects Anderson covered in “Shout” that I was particularly riveted by: her parents and her writing.

First, Anderson crafts her parents as incredibly complex characters, sharing stories about their past to reconcile them with the people she knew growing up. Anderson bookends “Shout” by discussing her parents, and this provides a strong framework for an intensely personal book.

Anderson also goes in depth about her writing. While the information she shares about “Speak” was familiar based upon information included in the author’s note of that book, Anderson also discusses inspiration and aims for her other novels.

These moments interested me; as a writer, I appreciate any glance at other writers’ processes. It was great to gain more insight into Anderson’s other works that I read before “Speak.” Having the importance of those works recognized by Anderson made me revisit the emotions I felt reading those books when I was in middle school and high school.

This verse memoir shows correlations between Anderson’s life and her fiction, and she notes that reality influences fiction. For example, Anderson herself is a sexual assault survivor and she used that experience to write “Speak.”

In “Shout,” Anderson shares her own story in a powerful way. For fans of “Speak” or Anderson’s other novels, this is new insight into the author. For other young women, the novel is proof that they are not alone in their struggle.

Anderson acknowledges shared experiences amongst young women by bridging the gap between her experiences growing up and scenarios she heard while visiting schools with contemporary culture.

As conversations about sexual assault amplify in society, Anderson literally shouts her feelings and experiences through “Shout,” providing a pivotal narrative to the conversation.

Macy Davis is the culture editor for the Collegian and a senior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this review are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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Macy Davis
I'm Macy Davis, culture editor. I'm a senior studying English with a minor in mass communications and journalism. When I'm not reading and writing (both for class and for fun), I'm a member of the nationally ranked K-State speech team. After I graduate I plan on pursuing a graduate degree in library science.