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Telling: A Memoir of Rape and Recovery


She invites the reader into her life and into the questions raised by a crime with no obvious solutions or easy answers. We see the dimensions of a human struggle often kept hidden from view. While there are an estimated twelve million rape survivors in the United States, rape is still unspeakable, left out of our personal and cultural conversation. In Telling, Francisco has found a language for the secret grief carried by men and women who have survived rape.

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She invites the reader into her life and into the questions raised by a crime with no obvious solutions or easy answers. We see the dimensions of a human struggle often kept hidden from view. While there are an estimated twelve million rape survivors in the United States, rape is still unspeakable, left out of our personal and cultural conversation. In Telling, Francisco has found a language for the secret grief carried by men and women who have survived rape.

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Editorial Reviews

Jane Hamilton
Patricia Francisco has written a beautiful book about the pain of rape. What a feat, to have great measures of wisdom and generosity and love in a book that is also about fear and loss. Telling is an important memoir by an eloquent writer.
Rosellen Brown
I have read many accounts of sexual assault, but I can't remember any as powerful as Patricia Francisco's. This book is remarkable for its intelligence and control of detail, and for the author's refusal to beg for automatic sympathy.
New York Times Book Review
Francisco...encourages others to start a dialogue about the ‘unspeakable' crime. Francisco warns against keeping quiet: ‘Evil is best born when it's fully visible.'
Washington Post
Electrifying...beautifully written.
Cathy Madison
[E]xtraordinarily compelling...
Utne Reader
Hungry Mind Review
Francisco draws strength from beauty and artfulness and passes that strength along...I recommend Francisco's book for the sad, wise, and lyrically written lesson in recovery it bears.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Telling requires a kind of courage that I normally lack. This book is an exertion, a promise I'm keeping, and it's slow going." Readers may find the going slow, too, because Francisco (Cold Feet) writes in an almost halting, episodic style as she breaks a long silence to write about rape and its long, perhaps endless, aftermath. Her memoir is deliberately self-conscious in its revelations of what happened, in its exploration of emotion and in its construction of meaning. And it works, because Francisco's method is appropriate to the larger argument that animates the memoir: that, while telling is excruciating, silence is poison. In 1981, while her husband, Tim, was in Vermont, an intruder broke into her Minneapolis home and raped her. Francisco underwent counseling and received a great deal of love and support from both Tim and her friends. However, despite her best efforts to carry on with her life, she found that she was unable to recover completely from the trauma. She now attributes the difficult labor she endured four years later while giving birth to her son to a suppressed physiological memory of the rape. She also feels that her ordeal placed a stress on her and Tim that contributed to their subsequent divorce. In order to complete her recovery, Francisco needed publicly to acknowledge what happened to her. So she attended several Minnesota rape trials and participated in the "Silent Witness" project, which publicizes cases of women killed in domestic violence. In this fierce book, she strikes a difficult balance between the subjectivity of memoir and an eloquent argument that society must look sexual assault in the face before it can be stopped.
Cathy Madison
[E]xtraordinarily compelling...
Utne Reader
Nancy Gavilanes
Francisco, who teaches creative writing at Hamline University in St. Paul, encourages others to start a dialogue about the ''unspeakable'' crime. Francisco warns against keeping quiet: ''Evil is best borne when it's fully visible.''
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A poetic, searingly personal book about a subject much of society would prefer to ignore. Francisco was a happily married 20-something writer and assistant editor when a rapist entered her apartment while her husband was away and brutally raped her. The act itself only took moments (although he spent several hours mentally torturing her), but her recovery took years. Novelist Francisco (Cold Feet) chronicles that recovery here in a book that is personal and yet universal enough to offer hope to others who have faced similar trauma. Francisco has an enviable feel for language. Her prose is by turns subtle and shockingly direct, just as rape itself is simultaneously blunt and violent and an insidious spiritual attack whose wounds fester internally long after the actual act has been committed. Francisco chillingly chronicles the act itself and the various methods she used to cope. "My most deeply held belief about my experience of rape is that, by talking, I saved my life," she writes. "I had a small chance and it arrived like an opening in traffic. I knew exactly what to do with it. Tell. Talk about yourself. Spill it." Unafraid to bare her soul as a writer as well, Francisco walks the reader through the failure of her marriage (80 percent of marriages involving a rape victim fail, one counselor tells her) to her slow, painful reawakening to her self and life through a variety of therapies, including body treatments such as massage and energy work. "I've come to believe that the body's memory is as deep and unacknowledged as our dreams. Both fall outside language, their messages carried in image and sensation."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060930769
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/2000
  • Series: Harper Perennial Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 932,704
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Fransisco teaches creative writing in the MFA Program at Hamline University. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Read an Excerpt

Bedtime Story

The light cast by the red lamp near Andre's bed is too low for reading, so I switch on the glowing globe that illuminates a green and pink world. We arrange ourselves on his narrow bed in the corner, settle down to read Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen." Andre slouches beside me, willing to nestle close, to let my arm drape around his body as I read.

"Is this going to be boring?" He eyes the thick book, suspicious of the dreamy cover illustration of a girl riding in a golden coach with a huge black crow.

"Maybe in parts," I defer, willing to force this tale on him for my own purposes. There are some words I want him to take in deeply. "This story is told in seven parts. We'll go slow, just a bit at a time. By the end, we'll know the whole story."

"Will it be scary?"

"Only in the beginning."

He sinks lower.

"You know, it's about a girl and a boy who are best friends--like you and Sofi," I continue in the voice of the supplicant. He has begun to resist the books I endorse with my enthusiasm. The bedtime story hour belongs to him. "The boy gets lost and the girl tries--"

"Does she find him?" He sits up a bit, resting on his elbows.

"That's the mystery part."

I can see by the way he collapses back onto the bed that I have just responded badly. I ignore him, loving his dear face in the light of the glowing world. I know this story. He is my son, and I want him to know it, too. For "The Snow Queen" is a story of the journey back, rendered as dramatic and harrowing as the event that precipitated the loss. It's a complicated journey, longer than any tale we're used to. The heroine makes mistakes, finds help in strangeplaces, never stops looking for what's been lost. I begin at the beginning.

"The Snow Queen"

by Hans Christian Andersen

The First Part,

which deals with the mirror and its splinters.

Well, now, let's begin--and when we come to the end of the story we shall know more than we know now! There was once a wicked demon--one of the very worst--the Devil himself! One day he was in a really good humour because he had made a mirror which had the power of making everything good and beautiful reflected in it disappear almost to nothing, while all that was bad and ugly to look at showed up clearly and appeared far worse than it really was. In this mirror the loveliest of landscapes looked just like boiled spinach, and even the nicest people looked hideous or else they stood on their heads and had no bodies.

The story goes on. The Devil's students at the School for Demons try to take the mirror to heaven to fool the angels, but it slips out of their hands and falls to earth, splintering into billions of pieces. Some of the pieces are as small as a grain of sand and fly into people's eyes to make them see only what is bad in the world. And some get caught in people's chests, turning their hearts to ice.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Courageous and Generous

    I first read Telling in 2001, when I thought, "How could anyone write about that?" A decade later, with a memoir of my own, I read Telling again to see what I missed the first time. How courageous and generous the author was in sharing her story! It is difficult to revisit the horrible crime of rape and its devastating ramifications. However, as Francisco says, the crime frequently revisits the victim: "...triggered and triggered in exhausting rounds of shutting out thoughts only to have them arise again."

    Not only does Francisco write about her experience of rape, she also explains society's myths, the consequences of these myths, and the changes that must be made. Ours is a culture that blames the victim, protects the perpetrator, and lacks in justice. But what makes this book compelling is the excellent writing that moves the reader through this personal story with a powerful reach toward hope. Francisco loses so much to this crime, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, yet gains in different measures in future time. She candidly shows the reader the losses and gains, and writes with eloquence.

    While she attempts to embark on a journey of recovery, Francisco explores sexism and feminism. She writes about anger, action, love, loss, and labor. There are no cliches. She says that her "return to health was because of rather than in spite of other human beings." If you or someone you know has experienced rape, this is a "must read" for understanding, compassion, and strength.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2006

    A life saver.

    I could very well say this book saved my life. I felt like going crazy with a secret so similar to hers, it was like we had experienced the same things. This book raised my spirits and gave me the courage to speak out. I thank the author for doing that.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2004


    I have had the honor of reading this book and hearing Mrs. Francisco speak at a workshop I was at. This is a must have for anyone who is a survivor of sexual assault, or knows someone who is. She re-assures you that you can live after this & be normal. She is living proof of the saying 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' All survivors are.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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