I love finding books that stay with me for a very long time. One of the best compliments I can give a book is to say it was horrible. By which I mean, the book revealed and chewed on something with such depth and thoughtfulness, that it brought the full horror of a situation fully to my consciousness in a way I can never turn away from again.
While I have read a number of very impactful books, the ones that rise to this level for me tend to come from investigative journalism.
There have been two books like that for me in the last couple of years. The first was “Doing Harm” by Maya Dusenbery. It’s an in-depth exploration of how the entire medical system had been failing and gaslighting women. From so-called hysteria, to using only male mouse cells in research labs, to not testing drugs on women, to how inherent bias results in women being under treated for pain. As a woman who has had a very difficult time navigating the medical system, despite privilege, and has currently incurable illness that is wildly underfunded, the book hit a bit close to home.
Jodi and Megan are the journalists at the New York Times who published the Harvey Weinstein expose. This book tells the story of their investigative process, and of the way a man and his co-conspirators terrorized and harassed women for decades, and got away with it.
It also grapples with the impact and outcomes from that article. It examines the journey of Christine Blasey Ford, as a test of whether cultural change is actually taking place now that women are feeling more emboldened to speak their truths. Are we different? Are these women different? How are our stories the same across many other cultural divides, McDonald’s worker and Hollywood star alike?
I am a strange combination of cynical and naive. Of course men in power can do horrible things and get away with it. But I had not grappled with how many people have to be actively facilitating that behavior for it to continue for decades with little consequence. This was the horrible.
So many women have signed away their voices in non disclosure agreements, being assaulted or harassed and never able to warn their coworkers, or tell their spouses, without potentially dire consequences. The amount of this was also horrible.
I have a bias in favor of journalists, and that was only reinforced. Jodi and Megan, and many others did thorough due diligence on this story, and gave incredible time and effort to get it right. There is simply nothing to dispute.
And for perhaps the first time, the epilogue gave me goosebumps. I’m not going to give that away. But the power and potential was potent.
I cannot recommend “She Said” enough. It’s horrible.