These Books Capture The #MeToo Era

Two years ago, the New York Times published an expose that changed the world. Journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor recall knowing, in their new book, She Said, that their article revealing Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual misconduct would be explosive. What they couldn’t predict, though, was the torrent of similar experiences the article unleashed.

We now broadly refer to the outpouring of stories as the #MeToo movement, a term originally coined by activist Tarana Burke. For so long, stories of sexual misconduct were silenced, sealed up in binding arbitration, and ignored. Today, these stories are heard — and have consequences for perpetrators and survivors alike, though not always the intended ones


To this day, #MeToo stories saturate the news cycle. It’s one thing to read about the facts of a #MeToo incident. It’s another to understand the complicated dynamics of sexual relationships, whether through a deeply wrought work of contemporary fiction or an in-depth investigative analysis. Ranging from YA dystopias to journalistic deep-dives, these books explore the complexities under the surface of many #MeToo stories.  

Here’s what to read on the movement’s second anniversary. 

Asking For It, Louise O’Neill (2016)

Emma, the 18-year-old narrator of this YA novel, is not always likable. She’s beautiful, popular, ruthless — the kind of girl you might fear and admire at once. Or at least, that’s how Emma is before she’s assaulted at a party. After that, everything changes, and Emma becomes a pariah in her small Irish town. “My body is not my own anymore. They have stamped their names all over it,” Emma narrates in this Speak for the 21st century, a must-read for students and adults alike.

History of Violence, Edouard Louis (2018)

When renowned French author Edouard Louis was 19, he was raped and nearly murdered by a stranger. Louis looks back on the incident and its aftermath in this slim, startling work of autobiographical fiction. History of Violence is to read, but certainly far harder to live through. 

Asymmetry, Lisa Halliday (2018)

Alice is a book editor in her mid-twenties. Compared to Ezra, her older lover and a literary legend, Alice feels her voice is small, and her capacity for fiction, insignificant. But what if Ezra is wrong about Alice’s capabilities? Asymmetry is a book interested in the imbalance of certain relationships, looking at the dynamics between two people, between people and the state, and between women and society.

Putney, Sofka Zinovieff (2018)

In Putney, Sofka Zinovieff tackles the gnarly, complicated topic of statutory rape. Daphne Greenslay remembers her childhood affair with her older family friend, Ralph, fondly — until her old friend, Jane, reframes the affair as sexual abuse. The characters in Zinovieff’s book are alternatively complicit and sympathetic. The novel manages its hefty load through brilliant writing, astute psychological insight, and the scenery of Greek islands.

The Testaments, Margaret Atwood (2019)

The red cloak found in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has become a real-life symbol of the worst-case scenario for women: Being stripped of their civil liberties. In The Testaments, Atwood revisits her famous 1985 dystopia, now a cultural touchstone. Focusing on the Aunts of Gilead, the only women in Gilead who hold power, The Testaments is a fascinating exploration of power and complicity. Aunt Lydia becomes one of literature’s most memorable and complicated antiheroes.

She Said, Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey (2019)

She Said is the story behind the story that changed the world. In She Said, New York Times journalists, Kantor and Twohey, describe the long nights, careful conversations with survivors, and tireless work that went into uncovering Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual misconduct.  As the book shows, the article that broke open the #MeToo movement came dangerously close to not being published. Come for the shocking reveals, stay for how the book expertly parses the current moment.

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self Delusion, Jia Tolentino (2019)

In this much-lauded essay collection, New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino captures the experience of a person (specifically, a person on the internet) in 2019. Her topics are broad, ranging from the pressures of Instagram to the connection between psychedelic drugs and spirituality. One essay looks at how Rolling Stone’s botched expose about a gang rape at the University of Virginia in 2014 impacted the credibility of other survivors who tried to come forward. 

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, Ronan Farrow (2019)

In this bombshell book, journalist Ronan Farrow exposes the system that allows perpetrators to repeat their offenses, again and again, without repercussion. Farrow reported on the network of ex-Mossad agents who protected Harvey Weinstein. Catch and Kill adds to that reporting and looks into other figures, including former NBC anchor Matt Lauer

Shout, Laurie Halse Anderson (2019)

Laurie Halse Anderson’s seminal debut novel, Speak, helped generations of teenagers talk about, and understand, the impact of sexual violence. In this memoir-in-verse, Anderson revisits her dysfunctional childhood and the traumatic incident that inspired Melina’s story. The second half of Shout is comprised of what Anderson calls “rage poems,” a response to the outpouring of stories.

Trust Exercise, Susan Choi (2019)

There are no reliable narrators in Trust Exercise. Instead, there are people taming the thicket of their past by turning it into fiction and making it bearable. Sarah and Karen process their charged experiences with Mr. Kingsley, a charismatic theatre teacher at their performing arts school in the ‘80s, differently. Susan Choi expertly manipulates form in Trust Exercise, using the conventions of the novel to lull readers into familiarity, and then changing the rules, to devastating effects. A challenging, but worthwhile, read.  

The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker (2019)

The Trojan War was started because a very beautiful woman was stolen from her husband. In The Iliad, women may be able to launch a thousand ships, but they hardly speak. In The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker gives voice to the Trojan War’s silenced women, who live in tents alongside the Greeks. Briseis, Achilles’ slave, narrates. 

What Red Was, Rosie Price (2019) 

Katie Quaile’s friendship with Max Rippon during her first year of college opened up a door into a world of privilege. At first, Katie gets along well with Max’s family. After a sexual assault takes place during a Christmas party, Katie sees where loyalties lie. What Red Was looks the aftermath of sexual assault along the faultlines of friendship and class.

Women Talking, Miriam Toews (2018)

A truly gruesome premise inspires this astounding book. Between 2005 and 2009, in a Mennonite colony in Bolivia, women and girls were repeatedly drugged and raped by nine men in the community. The women in the fictional colony of Molotschna endure something similar. After the truth comes out, they debate whether to stay, to leave, or to fight.

Whisper Network, Chandler Baker (2019)

The women of Truviv, Inc. know that Ames Garrett is not to be trusted. Sloane, Ardie, and Grace, who work in the legal department, and Rosalita, who is a cleaner, have all had brushes with his ego — and worse. When Ames is tapped as the next CEO, will they turn the whispers about Ames up to a roar? This feminist thriller is a thought-provoking addition to #MeToo's conversation about workplace misconduct, power, and gender roles. It's also a delectable read.

The Grace Year, Kim Liggett (2019)

The #MeToo era has brought a flood of feminist dystopias. The Grace Years, a YA debut novel for Liggett, distinguishes itself from the rest by showing how life in an oppressive patriarchy affects teenage girls’ relationships with each other. Elizabeth Banks is directing and producing the movie adaptation.

Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams (2019)

Queenie captures contemporary life for a millennial woman who’s not necessarily the center of a #MeToo story, but is surrounded by them. Queenie, a 25-year-old Jamaican-British woman, asks the same questions that may keep you up. Read Queenie if you’re trying to date, make meaning, or find fulfilment in this era.
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