Write the narrative: New East Passyunk bookstore opens with provocatively inspiring new anthology

In an effort to promote its grand opening, a South Philly bookstore came up with a notion true to its namesake.The East Passyunk shop, appropriately called A Novel Idea (1725 E. Passyunk Ave.), welcomed Tianna Hansen and Kristin Garth, curators…

In an effort to promote its grand opening, a South Philly bookstore came up with a notion true to its namesake.

The East Passyunk shop, appropriately called A Novel Idea (1725 E. Passyunk Ave.), welcomed Tianna Hansen and Kristin Garth, curators of a new anthology titled “You Are Not Your Rape,” a collection of 80 stories told by survivors of rape and abuse from around the country. The book was created in the aftermath of the recent Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, the judge accused of sexual assault by Stanford professor Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

The move to create the anthology also served as a personal testament for Hansen and Garth, both of whom are survivors of rape. Hansen, founder and editor-in-chief of small independent press Rhythm & Bones, said that the novel’s purpose was to give those who needed a voice the opportunity to speak.

“We wish to give voice to those who are ready to speak out, a declaration to end our silence and hope to defeat the stigma surrounding these powerful, essential stories,” Hansen wrote in an email to PW. “This is our declaration toward healing and overcoming, calling for empowerment in the aftermath of abuse, assault, trauma, and pain. To let the men and women who have experienced the stories inside this anthology know they are far from alone, and together we can make a difference.”

The trauma is real. According to statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in every five women are raped in America, totaling more victims than any other crime in America.

Rhythm and Bones handpicked the stories from over 200 submissions that poured in from a callout to those looking for a place to reflect. Hansen said that the title of the book received backlash from the literary community on social media, but there was no other title to consider. Borrowed from a creative nonfiction piece she wrote years earlier, she once penned, “You are not your rape, you are not your pain. You are glorious – fragile lace of moonlight drenched upon your naked skin.”The poetic words were meant as an affirmation to finding light in even the darkest moments.

“In a time where the news tells tales of accused rape and those who speak out are ridiculed, sent death threats, shamed, and made to feel unsafe, this project is all the more important and necessary,” wrote Hansen. “[This book was intended] to provide a permanent home for those voices and their stories who refuse to stay silent, despite the trauma we endure.”

A timely mix of creative nonfiction, essay writing and poetry, “You Are Not Your Rape” serves as a loud, in-your-face statement that in the age of the internet and social media, more survivors are finding the courage to come forward and expose their attackers.

Hansen said the notion of the book hit home for many. Dozens filled the room at A Novel Idea, where one reader noted taking a red-eye flight from Los Angeles just to be apart of the special night.

“This is an influential time for us to speak out and be heard,” wrote Hansen. “Compiling these stories is not only necessary but also meaningful in an age where people are with increasing fervor finding the confidence to speak up. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have truly propelled us forward.”

You Are Not Your Rape | $25. A Novel Idea, 1725 E. Passyunk Ave. Also available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon online bookstores. rhythmnbone.com/yanyr-anthology

    • Kerith Gabriel's Headshot

      Kerith Gabriel is the former editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Weekly but somehow hasn’t figured out that means he doesn’t have to write nearly as much. As a routine contributor, journalism has been in his blood since his beginnings as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News.