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A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer: Writings to Stop Violence Against Women and Girls    edited by Eve Ensler order for
Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer
by Eve Ensler
Order:  USA  Can
Villard, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In her Introduction to A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer: Writings to Stop Violence Against Women and Girls, editor Eve Ensler tells us that the book is about 'Speaking the unspoken ... speaking the pain, speaking the hunger ... Speaking so that we are in community, in conscience, in concern.' The collection here is taken from the Until the Violence Stops festival, performed in New York City in the summer of 2006.

There are a variety of powerful pieces in very different styles - including prose, poetry, and play formats - with settings all over the world. Authors include Maya Angelou, Michael Cunningham, Dave Eggers, Susan Miller, Jane Fonda, and Alice Walker. What the stories have in common is that what they say is very painful to read, and that most of them must be even more powerful in a verbal presentation (you can almost hear the author's strong voices, while reading the text).

Here are a few that spoke most strongly to me. In 7 Variations on Margarita Weinberg, Moisés Kaufman addresses 'the road not taken. The life not lived' and the compromises that people make for survival. In Memory, Christine House speaks of fighting back, and owning 'my body. My will. My life.' And Dave Eggers portrays a Sudanese woman, My Mother with Her Hands as Knives, whose fierce determination wins back her daughters from the militia who have taken them.

At the back of the book is information on V-Day (founded in 1998) and how to get involved in it. And in her Afterword, Jane Fonda tells us that 'we need to hold in our hearts a bigger vision of a world in which both men and women are able to be full human beings, in control of their bodies and their hearts, respecting others' bodies and hearts.' Hear, hear!

2nd Review by Sally Selvadurai:

This collection of essays, poems and recollections is dedicated to stopping violence against women and girls. It is indeed powerful, moving, frightening and sickening, but also has overtones in some items of the funny and beautiful. However, I doubt that very many of those who perpetrate acts of brutality against women – be they rape, murder, domestic violence or 'merely a put-down' (psychological abuse) - will ever see (or see themselves in) these pages. This is a book that speaks to the believers, those who already understand what goes on, either behind closed doors or sanctioned by the governments of the countries where the victims reside(d). However, having said that, I think every woman should read some of these essays and monologues, so that we can stand united to take action against those who would abuse us*.

Editor Eve Ensler is an author and playwright who brought to our collective attention The Vagina Monologues, and has been ably assisted by her colleague Molly Doyle, a writer, editor and producer who has worked on more than two hundred books and helped produce major theatrical and television events around the world. Hard as it is to acknowledge the personal injury and suffering that is retold in this work, it is definitely worth the reader's time.

* In Montreal there is a chapter of the organization L.o.V.E. (Leave out Violence Everywhere); this group works with young people (predominantly female, but also includes young men – we cannot forget that they are also abused and mistreated by those they trust) and encourages them to speak about their anger and fear, through writing – some of these have been read at the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival and can be found in issues of the periodical Literacy Across the CurriculuMedia Focus, available through the Centre for Literacy website. I am sure there are similar organizations in many towns and cities across North America and worldwide.

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