SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson


Finding my courage to speak up twenty-five years after I was raped, writing Speak, and talking with countless survivors of sexual violence made me who I am today.

This book shows how that happened.

It’s filled with the accidents, serendipities, bloodlines, tidal waves, sunrises, disasters, passport stamps, criminals, cafeterias, nightmares, fever dreams, readers, portents, and whispers that have shaped me so far.

My father wrote poetry, too. He gave me these guidelines: we must be gentle with the living, but the dead own their truth and are fearless. So I’ve written honestly about the challenges my parents faced and how their struggles affected me. The poems that reference people other than me or my family are truth told slant; I’ve muddled specific details to protect the identities of survivors.

This is the story of a girl who lost her voice and wrote herself a new one.

PRELUDE: mic test

this book smells like me woodsmoke


honey and strawberries sunscreen, libraries failures and sweat green nights in the mountains cold dawns by the sea this book reeks of my fear

of depression’s black dogs howling and the ancient shames riding my back, their claws buried deep

this book is yesterday’s mud dried on the dance floor the step patterns cautiously submitted for your curious investigation of what I feel like on the inside


in the name of love

When he was eighteen years old, my father saw his buddy’s head sliced into two pieces, sawn just above the eyebrows by an exploding brake drum, when he was in the middle of telling a joke.

Repairing planes, P-51s, on an air base in England, hungry for a gun, not a wrench, my father pushed an army-issue trunk into his mind and put the picture of his friend’s last breath at the bottom of it.

Then they sent him to Dachau.

Not just him, of course, his whole unit, and not just to Dachau, but to all of the camps because the War was over.

But not really.

Daddy didn’t talk to me for forty years about what he saw, heard, what he smelled what he did about it;

one year of silence for every day of the Flood, one year for every day from Lent until Easter.

The air in Dachau was clouded with the ash from countless bodies, as he breathed it in the agony of the dying infected my father, and all of his friends. They tried to help the suffering, followed orders, took out their rage in criminal ways while their officers turned away. My father filled the trunk in his head with walking corpses who sang to him every night for the rest of his life.

One day Daddy watched a pregnant woman walking slowly down the road

near the gates of Dachau

he matched his steps to hers,

then stopped as she crouched in a ditch and birthed a baby.

My father, a kid on the verge of destruction, half-mad from the violence he’d seen desperate to kill, to slaughter, to maim, watched that baby slip into the world between her momma’s blood-slicked thighs and it healed him just enough

that he wept.

He wrapped the newborn in her mother’s apron and helped them both to the Red Cross tent set up for survivors.

stained glass curtains in my mother’s mouth

Veteran of D/depression, the German war and atrocities a handsome boy married the tall girl who looked like Katharine Hepburn two kids adrift in a city far from home two ships ripped from their moorings.

Mom told me the story when I was in high school, on a night when Daddy’s drinking drove our family to the edge “He had to slap me,” she said. “It happened before you were born.”

The image of my father hitting my mother picassoed in front of me like Sunday sunshine slicing through the church windows, fracturing and rearranging the truth on the floor.

They lived in Boston back then Daddy studying to be a preacher Mom trying to be a wife.

“He had to slap me,” she repeated.

“I was screaming,”

screaming for reasons

too many to count.

The full story came out in gingerbread crumbs dropped to show me the way.

After the meltdown, the attack, they had to ride the train home to repair the damage to her face home to the mountains, to their parents to a clucking village of spite, her broken teeth vibrating

in bloody sockets,

her husband horrified at the war he’d declared on his beloved, he turned toward the aisle

thinking of escape.

Her backbone crumbling under the weight of her heart, she fixed her eyes on the dark forest just beyond the glass.

“I wouldn’t shut up,”

she said. “He had to.”

The lie told to friends was that she fell, clumsy, tumbled down the stairs so many broken teeth, poor thing bad things happen

in big cities, you know.

The truth was that the stress of fighting the ghosts in his head broke him that night

and as they argued

my father didn’t just slap my mother.

He beat her.

But beatings didn’t fit in the fairy tales she liked to tell herself

so she sugarcoated the story to make it easier to swallow.

The town dentist, a family friend, didn’t charge for his labor gently apologized with every tooth.

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