I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Silence is Part of the Problem

Silence is Part of the Problem

Enda Wyley
The Red Word, by Sarah Henstra, Tramp Press, 325 pp, €15/€12, ISBN: 978-1999700874 In an interview about The Red Word, her provocative debut novel set in a nameless nineties Ivy League School, Sarah Henstra talks about rape “as a word that cuts in both directions, in that it can cause harm to the accused but also ‑ in a culture that often defaults to victim blaming, slut shaming, and other misogynistic attitudes ‑ to the accuser, too. As these attitudes change, hopefully the disclosure and reporting of abuse will become less fraught.” Twenty years ago discussions about sexual violence, consent, power in relationships were limited. It could be argued that only in recent years are we beginning to find the language to respond to these issues meaningfully. In the wake of #MeToo, The Red Word is a timely novel, which goes a long way towards furthering these vital conversations. Since its publication in Canada (Grove Atlantic 2018) and its recent publication with Tramp Press in Ireland this year, critical interest in Henstra’s book has been intense, the novel notching up high praise, including being awarded the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Award in Canada. It’s an interest fuelled not just by the impressive power of Henstra’s writing but by The Red Word’s provocative subject matter of rape culture within a fictional fraternity called  Gama Beta Chi, or “Gang Bang Central”, notorious for several of its “brothers’” names being featured on a list of date rapists compiled by the university’s female students. The novel begins in 2010. Karen Huls is a Toronto lifestyle photographer who hears of the sudden death of a friend she had known in college. This news sends her speedily back in time to the mid-nineties and to her party-going, drug-filled university days. What follows is a gripping narrative revealing the horrors of rape within this campus culture and also the anti-frat activism generated by Karen’s housemates at the time – four radical feminists seeking to uncover and bring down the male residents of GBC. When we first meet Karen, she is lying in a hungover, dishevelled, post-party heap on the lawn of “Raghurst”, a house which she knows has been advertising for a roommate. My hair … was dew-frizzed and studded with bits of dead grass … I stank of booze and, probably, sex. Despite the desperate state she is in and despite the fact that she has just had sex with…

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