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The Telling

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by Zoe Zolbrod

Zoe Zolbrod remained silent about her early childhood molestation for nearly a decade. When she finally decided to tell, she wasn't sure what to expect, or what to say. Through a kaleidoscopic series of experiences—Zolbrod hitchhikes with a boyfriend across the country, hangs out in a strip club in Philadelphia, meets and marries her husband, and gives birth to her children—she traces the development of her sexuality, her relationships with men, and the cultivation of her motherhood in the shadow of her childhood sexual abuse. Bolstered with research, Zolbrod argues passionately for the empowerment of sexual abuse victims and the courage it takes to talk about it.

The Telling is an intimate examination of one woman's reckoning with a past she can't always explain, and a life lived in search for the right words.

"In a narrative driven by ferocious diction, Zolbrod examines what it means to be a girl, a mother, a protector, a survivor, and a product of one’s family. She investigates how one owns her story by sharing it, even when doing so indicts the people she loves."

"Zolbrod shows great courage as she tries to answer difficult and troubling questions about herself and her family, a powerfully rendered struggle that will strike a chord with abuse survivors and their loved ones."
Publishers Weekly

"An honest, unapologetic, and keenly observed memoir."
—Kirkus Reviews

"'Unflinching' is a word that gets tossed around a lot in relation to memoirs; so are 'brave' and 'honest' and 'heart-wrenching.' Zolbrod's The Telling is all of these things. Self-possessed and self-aware, she sets out to move beyond the 'near hysteria over the issue' and offers a way to see through the 'fog when we confront the issue under our own noses, under our own covers, stuffed under our beds.' Beautifully and on her own terms, she succeeds."
Chicago Tribune

"Dusk is now settling around my house and I’m just emerging from the spell of Zoe Zolbrod’s transfixing memoir: I sat down, as you will, to read ten pages and ended up devouring the entire thing in one breathless gulp. Though ostensibly a tale of heartbreaking childhood molestation, The Telling is much, much more: A complicated, layered commentary on coming of age in America, on the limits of gender, and on what it means to be a young girl, a young woman, a mother, a daughter, at this moment in history. Spiked with Zolbrod’s humor and her novelist’s eye for detail, this layered, ingeniously constructed story reminded me of so many favorite memoirs of recent years, from Alice Sebold’s Lucky to Claire Dederer’s Poser, but Zolbrod’s spiky, uncompromising style is utterly her own." 
—Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year and A Fortunate Age

"Zoe Zolbrod’s memoir about coming to terms with her childhood sexual abuse is evocative, fiercely intelligent, and beautifully constructed. It also manages to be compulsively readable, a rare quality in a book dealing with such difficult subject matter. In telling her story, Zolbrod becomes a time traveler, making elegant leaps from early childhood to her unconventional coming of age to the embattled but deep satisfactions of her own motherhood. The result is a book that ponders the way the past informs the present—and the mysterious manner in which resilience works. The Telling is a necessary memoir in every way. With remarkable restraint and grace, Zolbrod shows what telling the truth costs us, and what essential essence in the teller it sets free."
—Claire Dederer, author of Poser: My Life in 23 Poses

"This book will be a huge asset to abuse survivors and their families, but The Telling is also a memoir that is no more singularly specific to that population than having personally hiked the PCT was to the many fans of WILD, or involvement in the Hans Reiser murder case was to fans of The Adderall Diaries. What you need to love this memoir is to have ever grown up wondering if you really fit in to the narrative that seemed to be assigned to you; to have ever wanted to live life on a large canvas even if it meant being reckless; to have ever had a family secret; to have been punk or anarchist or just fascinated by any of those things in the eighties and nineties; to have ever parented a child; to have ever been a girl becoming a woman or a woman looking back on being a girl. It's one of the best memoirs of 2016, or any recent year, you should buy a copy, because no one wrestles with sticky psychology on the page quite like Zoe, and despite the serious subject matter, the book is also kind of a wild ride."
—Gina Frangello, author of My Life in Men, Slut Lullabies, and My Sister's Continent

"The Telling is a necessary book; hard at times, yes, often breathtakingly beautiful, and most importantly, I think, profoundly accessible. Childhood sexual abuse is a subject we hide from—it’s too awful, too taboo—but here, Zolbrod gives us nuance and complexity, truth that pushes past the single story of victim and into this beautiful mess of a life. At times, I wanted to set the walls on fire. At times, I wanted to put down the book and hug my small son. At times, I was swept away in the narrative, an expertly woven structure of what a young girl lived and a grown woman understood. And always, the questions: when and how and who do you tell? Zolbrod is telling us. Let’s listen. 
—Megan Stielstra, author of Once I Was Cool

"A gripping read. The Telling is brutally honest, relentlessly passionate and ferociously intelligent. Zolbrod has written a page turner—one unlike any you’ve ever experienced before."
—Rob Roberge, author of Liar and The Cost of Living

"One of the most stunning memoirs I've ever read. In this perfectly-crafted story, Zolbrod exercises her impeccable command of language to explore a dark subject with beauty, humility, and fierce grace. This book burns bright on the list of those that will stay with me for years to come."
—Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance and After This

"The job of the memoirist is to draw our gaze to the things that most scare us, and to hold it. In this way, they show us that it is possible to hold our whole truths. To do this well, they must enact such looking at the most intimate level. Only the most brave and honest writers can withstand this, the ones with a certain fortitude of self. Zoe Zolbrod is one such writer. She withholds nothing in The Telling, invites us into the deep examination of her own most changing experiences and she does so with skill, equanimity, and grace." 
—Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart 

"This remarkable memoir shines a light into the most shadowy corners of the soul and demonstrates the transcendent power of truth. Both authentic and likable, Zolbrod weaves a masterful and compelling narrative and examines tough issues with remarkable nuance and sensitivity. I will not soon forget this beautiful book."
—Jillian Lauren, NY Times bestselling author of Everything You Ever Wanted, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, and Pretty

Zoe Zolbrod’s work has appeared in Salon, The Nervous Breakdown, The Weeklings, and The Rumpus. Her debut novel Currency won a 2010 Nobbie Award and received an honorable mention by Friends of American Writers. Zoe lives in Evanston, IL with her husband, son, and daughter.

Pages: 300
ISBN: 978-1940430744
Publication date: May 2016

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