When #SAReads announced that June’s book was Missoula by Jon Krakauer, I was pumped! (I still am pumped, by the way.) As a subject surrounded by plenty of relevance in the last year, I think it could be a great tool for conversation and growth for all #SAPros and #SAGrads.
So, when Amazon confirmed it’s delivery to my doorstep this past Thursday, I took a dive right into the material.
I was not fully prepared for this book.
I like to think of myself as someone who can objectively look at issues in higher education, understand both sides, and grasp the human element behind the situation. I didn’t think twice about whether or not this book would be a difficult read for me.
I should have.
This is not to say I am taking this book of my shelf — quite the opposite. However, I think it is fair to throw out a few pointers with regard to Missoula, and the content does not start off slow and gradually pull in personal stories. You are hit with the full brunt of the situation in the first chapter. Again, this is okay. It’s definitely impactful, but you need to be prepared.
Point #1: Be Prepared for Graphic Detail
This book is not slow on the roll — drama and details do not just build up over time. You are hit with them in the first chapter. Police reports, statements from survivors, and the attitude of participants is not sugar-coated or handled lightly. They are presented in factual form to give you a full sense of every particular piece of this story. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, but for me it brought up a lot of emotion. It’s heavy material, and you may not be able to put in 50 pages of reading a day. I have picked it up multiple times and only made progress of 15 pages at a time.
Note: All of Krakauer’s quotes, interviews, statements are from the source. It appears that this is a well researched depiction of incidents that occurred. This is real life for some of our students, so it is important to see all of this as it is: out in the open and in the light. We shouldn’t sugar-coat it and make it easy to take in and process.
Point #2: Do Some Background Research on Missoula
Early on, Krakauer references the Jezebel Article, “My Weekend in America’s So-Called ‘Rape Capital.'” Read this article. It will give you some back-story of how these incidents hit the news and impacted the community prior to the release of this book. It is not journalism in the sense that it comes with no bias, it is more of a personal account of taking on the current opinions of Missoula. I wish I had read this prior to opening the book.
Counterpoint: This is not to say Jezebel is always a reputable source utilizing objective language. Any media outlet can choose what perspective through which to present a story. Our students, our colleagues, our families are exposed to different presentations of news all the time. It’s important to know what the attitude is toward sexual assault through any particular source or article. Reading the Jezebel article may provide some perspective in how others have taken up the task of investigating what the Missoula community and college constituents have to say on the subject.
Point #3: Find Some Other Readings to Complement Krakauer’s Story
Krakauer’s depiction of Missoula will not be representative of every college town, every college lifestyle, or every aspect of sexual assault. In addition to his narrative on the subject, we can look to some other sources as well to understand the subject more broadly.
From The Atlantic: When Sex Ed Discusses Gender Inequality, Sex Gets Safer
From the New York Times: Anxiety in Missoula Over Book About Campus Assaults
The Chronicle of Higher Education: Callisto to Offer New Reporting System for Survivors of Sexual Assault
Note: There are many other stories, features, and articles on how sexual assault impacts individuals and campus climates. This list is in no way inclusive of everything out there. Please feel free to comment, email me, or tweet at me other helpful readings that we can include!
“I am excited to continue reading this particular selection, and I hope you will consider joining the conversation as well! We will host a book club style discussion of Missoula (which should be italicized, not quotes – but you probably already knew that) on June 17, 2015 at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. (EDT) using the #SAReads hashtag.”