What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape

Writing from the viewpoint of a survivor, writer, daughter, mother, counselor and activist, Sohaila Abdulali looks at what we – women, men, trans people, politicians, teachers, writers, sex workers, feminists, sages, mansplainers, victims and families – think about rape. She also explores what we don’t say.

She asks pertinent questions: Is rape always a life-defining event? Does rape always symbolize something? Is rape worse than death? Is rape related to desire? Who gets raped? Is rape inevitable? Is one rape worse than the other? Who rapes? What is consent? How do you recover a sense of safety and joy? How do you raise sons? Who gets to judge?

Available worldwide in English, Dutch, Portuguese, and Turkish. Spanish and Korean editions forthcoming.

Book cover

Select Reviews

Publishers Weekly lists What We Talk About... as one of 20 “Big Indie Books of Fall 2018" and one of the 100 "Best Books of 2018."

"Her clear-eyed assessments, grace, and literary touches will make this book valuable reading for sociologists, therapists, feminists, and anyone who believes women should be able to move through the world free from fear." Publishers Weekly starred review.

"The author insightfully asks whether the 'yes means yes and no means no' model adequately accounts for a woman who 'chooses' to be raped over being killed or a woman who 'give[s] in' to a man who holds power in her professional world." Kirkus Review

  • "Abdulali teaches us that surviving sexual violence is essentially a creative act, and in her brave book she shares her, and many other, inspiring stories of surviving, thriving, and regaining wholeness."

    Richard O. Prum, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, The Evolution of Beauty
  • "Read the personal stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape, and see how far we have come -- and have yet to go."

    Gloria Steinem
  • "Sohaila Abdulali has created a powerful tool for examining rape culture and language on the individual, societal and global level that everyone can benefit from reading."

    Jill Soloway
  • "If the #MeToo campaign is to have any lasting impact for change in women's circumstances across the world, it will be because of books such as this."

    Preti Taneja, We That Are Young
  • "Empathy is a key character in this book. Sohaila is a brilliant and beautiful writer, and a star and thought leader for our generation.”

    Alyssa Mastromonaco, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff
  • "The shock is that there are not more books like this…Read it, and do not stop talking."

    Dr. Sarah Krasnostein, The Trauma Cleaner
  • "Filled will truths that will resonate with millions of us out there — and educate millions more."

    Winnie M Li, Dark Chapter
  • "Such a lot of insight in this book. I wish I had written it."

    Una, Becoming Unbecoming
  • "Courageous, angry, compassionate, informative, hopeful, and wise, this book approaches this hard topic from a variety of angles."

    Elizabeth A. Armstrong, Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan