One City One Book: Know My Name

One City One Book - Know My Name

Together, we read.

San Francisco Public Library is honored to announce its 16th Annual One City One Book selection, Know My Name by Chanel Miller.

San Francisco is rolling out the red carpet for Bay Area native Chanel Miller. In addition to an exhibition of original artworks at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco Public Library has selected her book, Know My Name: A Memoir (Penguin Random House), as this year’s One City One Book title. A citywide literary event, One City One Book: San Francisco Reads encourages members of the San Francisco community to read the same book at the same time and then discuss it in a variety of public programs. This program coincides with the Library’s annual HERstory Women's History Month celebration and Sexual Assault Awareness Month—a cause championed by Miller.

Universally acclaimed, rapturously reviewed, and an instant New York Times bestseller, Chanel Miller’s breathtaking memoir "gives readers the privilege of knowing her not just as Emily Doe, but as Chanel Miller the writer, the artist, the survivor, the fighter" (The Wrap). Her story of trauma and transcendence illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicting a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shining with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.

Chanel Miller in conversation with journalist Robynn Takayama on March 16, 6 p.m., along with a variety of events and workshops surrounding the topics of Miller's book during the months of March and April 2021, including book clubs, author talks, a women in the arts panel and more. 

About the Author

Chanel Miller

Chanel Miller is a writer and artist who received her BA in Literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her critically acclaimed memoir, Know My Name, was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book, and a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, as well as a best book of 2019 in Time, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, NPR, and People, among others. She is a 2019 Time Next 100 honoree and a 2016 Glamour Woman of the Year honoree under her pseudonym, "Emily Doe."

This program is sponsored by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

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  • What were your initial expectations of the book? What surprised you? What made the strongest first impression on you?

  • Epigraphs—the quotations that appear at the beginning of a book—often set a theme or tone or offer a point of reflection for a reader. Consider the quotations from writers Toni Morrison, Mary Oliver and Alexander Chee at the beginning of Know My Name . How do they relate to ideas that Miller sets forth in her introduction?

  • Miller remembers concrete details of what happened directly before and after the assault with full clarity. What stands out the most to you and why?

  • In Chapter 2, Miller describes some of the comments in the media coverage immediately following the assault. What were some of the comments that caught your attention and why? Have you heard or seen similar examples of criticism and victim-blaming? What is at the root of this?

  • Miller identifies one specific line of argument in response to Turner’s actions: "that boys simply could not help themselves" (50). This attitude, the "boys will be boys" mentality, is also known as toxic masculinity. How have you most recently observed this mentality in the media, pop culture, current affairs or your own everyday experience? What messages or behaviors would you say are important to pass on to children to avoid these harmful statements and beliefs?

  • What is the significance of "Emily Doe" in the book? What purpose does "Emily" serve for Miller?

  • What do you notice about the way that Miller describes her body throughout the book and the relationship she has with her physical self?

  • What was striking or surprising to you about the biases Miller experienced during her trial?

  • While this book can be simplified and characterized as an account of assault and trauma, it also contains many examples of profound ways, both big and small, in which people care for and look after each other. What are some examples that stand out to you?

  • One recurring thread through the memoir—the rape, Miller’s life in its aftermath, the justice system—is the idea of power. What does having power mean? Who has it? How can it be taken away, and what are ways Miller found to reclaim it?

  • One of the most notable features of Miller’s writing is her ability to capture emotion. In a 2020 interview with The Cut, Miller reflects, "[W]henever I thought about a really potent emotional memory related to the assault, my editor would challenge me to come up with another memory in my life that had a similar emotional core—even though it may not have been the same experience at all. It could b e from childhood, from anywhere. Showing [the reader] that experience would give them a more accessible entry point into that feeling. Instead of saying 'this happened to me,' you identify the emotional core of what happened and figure out other moments in your life that had similar cores, and use those to provide concrete scenes for the reader." What were some entry points into the emotional world of Know My Name that stand out to you?

  • An exhibition by Miller is currently on view at The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, easily visible from the street. Miller states that the Museum "was the first institution that approached me to say, 'We know your story. Now, what else would you like to say?' Rather than, 'Rehash your story. And continue to mine that one event for wisdom.'" If you’ve had the opportunity to see the mural, what do you think Miller is saying through her art?

  • Watch I Am With You, a powerful animated film short available on Miller’s website. Consider the way this medium augments the reading experience. How do Miller’s illustrations and voiceover add to your understanding of the memoir?

  • What change in perspective or understanding about the world has been unlocked in you through reading this book?

Praise and Recognitions for Know My Name

“She has written a memoir that converts the ongoing experience of sexual assault into literature…Beautiful.“─The Atlantic

“To tell her story at all is enough…the fact that Miller tells it beautifully, caring enough for her reader to spin golden sentences from her pain, is a gift on top of a gift.” ─Vogue

“Compelling and essential…Miller reminds us that our stories are worth telling, that the names and the lives attached to those names matter.” ─San Francisco Chronicle

Know My Name is an act of reclamation. On every page, Miller unflattens herself, returning from Victim or Emily Doe to Chanel, a beloved daughter and sister…Know My Name marks the debut of a gifted young writer. Miller’s words are purpose. They are maps. And she is a treasure who has prevailed.”─Jennifer Weiner, The New York Times

“Miller is a gifted storyteller…Know her name, know her voice.”─The New Yorker

“Triumphant…Know My Name evokes a woman whose spirit hasn’t been broken—a study in what it means to strike back, not in revenge, but in reclamation.”—O Magazine

“Miller makes a powerful case for overhauling a system that retraumatizes victims of sexual violence even in successful cases, perpetuating the feedback loop that discourages victims from coming forward to seek justice.” ─Mother Jones