Synopses & Reviews
Longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award for Nonfiction
TIME's 100 Must-Read Books of 2020
Publishers Weekly, Best Books of 2020
New York Times New & Noteworthy Audiobooks
Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2020
Starred Review Publishers Weekly
Starred Review Shelf Awareness
"This standout memoir marks a crucial moment in the discussion of what constitutes a violent crime." Publishers Weekly, Best Books of 2020
She Said meets Lucky in Michelle Bowdler's provocative debut, telling the story of her rape and recovery while interrogating why one of society's most serious crimes goes largely uninvestigated.
The crime of rape sizzles like a lightning strike. It pounces, flattens, destroys. A person stands whole, and in a moment of unexpected violence, that life, that body is gone.
Award-winning writer and public health executive Michelle Bowdler's memoir indicts how sexual violence has been addressed for decades in our society, asking whether rape is a crime given that it is the least reported major felony, least successfully prosecuted, and fewer than 3% of reported rapes result in conviction. Cases are closed before they are investigated and DNA evidence sits for years untested and disregarded.
Rape in this country is not treated as a crime of brutal violence but as a parlor game of he said / she said. It might be laughable if it didn’t work so much of the time.
Given all this, it seems fair to ask whether rape is actually a crime.
In 1984, the Boston Sexual Assault Unit was formed as a result of a series of break-ins and rapes that terrorized the city, of which Michelle’s own horrific rape was the last. Twenty years later, after a career of working with victims like herself, Michelle decides to find out what happened to her case and why she never heard from the police again after one brief interview.
Is Rape a Crime? is an expert blend of memoir and cultural investigation, and Michelle's story is a rallying cry to reclaim our power and right our world.
"Michelle Bowdler's remarkable, beautifully constructed book is essential reading. It forces us to confront both the reality of sexual assault and the repeated brutalities of a system that treats survivors of rape with disdain and neglect. And yet Bowdler is no victim. This book is not only a memoir but a call to action, one that will inspire and galvanize every reader." Ayelet Waldman, executive producer and co-creator of Netflix's Unbelievable and author of A Really Good Day
"A devastating, necessary, and compelling account of one woman's experience combined with astute analysis of our country's troubling relationship to sexual violence. Bowdler's book should be required reading for all who live here." Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me
"A searing condemnation of rape culture that firmly places the onus on law enforcement and legislators to reform broken systems...It will move readers to demand change." Shelf Awareness (Starred Review)
About the Author
Michelle Bowdler is the Executive Director of Health & Wellness at Tufts University and, after graduating from the Harvard School of Public Health, has worked on social justice issues related to rape for over a decade. Is Rape a Crime? is her first book. She is a recipient of a 2017 Barbara Deming Memorial Award and has been a Fellow at Ragdale and the MacDowell Colony. Michelle’s writing has been published in the New York Times and her essays “Eventually You Tell Your Kids” and “Babelogue” were nominated for Pushcart Prizes.