A Memoir of Terror
By Jessica Stern
(Ecco, Hardcover, 9780061626654, 320pp.)
Publication Date: July 2010
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"I have listened and I have been quiet all my life. But now I will speak."
One of the world's foremost experts on terrorism and post-traumatic stress disorder investigates her own unsolved adolescent sexual assault at the hands of a serial rapist, and in so doing, examines the horrors of trauma and denial.
Alone in an unlocked house in a safe neighborhood in the suburban town of Concord, Massachusetts, two good, obedient girls, Jessica Stern, fifteen, and her sister, fourteen, were raped on the night of October 1, 1973. The girls had just come back from ballet lessons and were doing their homework when a strange man armed with a gun entered their home. Afterward, when they reported the crime, the police were skeptical.
The rapist was never caught. For over thirty years, Stern denied the pain and the trauma of the assault. Following the example of her family, Sternwho lost her mother at the age of three, and whose father was a Holocaust survivorfocused on her work instead of her terror. She became a world-class expert on terrorism, a lauded academic and writer who interviewed terrorists around the globe. But while her career took off, her success hinged on her symptoms. After her ordeal she could not feel fear in normally frightening situations.
Stern believed she'd disassociated from the trauma altogether, until a devoted police lieutenant reopened the sisters' rape case and brought her back to that harrowing night more than three decades past. With the help of the lieutenant, Stern began her own investigationbringing to bear all her skills as a researcherto uncover the truth about the town of Concord, her family, and her own mind. The result is Denial, a candid, courageous, and ultimately hopeful look at a trauma and its aftermath.
Jessica Stern lectures on terrorism and is a member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law. She holds a doctorate in public policy from Harvard. She served as a staff member at the National Security Council during the Clinton admin-istration. A 20092010 Guggenheim Fellow, she was selected by Time in 2001 as one of seven thinkers whose innovative ideas "will change the world." Stern is the author of the New York Times Notable Book Terror in the Name of God and The Ultimate Terrorists. She lives with her husband and son in Massachusetts.
“[A] stunningly brave book.”
“This month’s must-read nonfiction: terrorism expert Jessica Stern’s DENIAL: A Memoir of Terror which opens the decades-old file of a crime committed against Stern as a teen, launching her on a gutsy investigation into the ways in which trauma is perpetuated.”
“DENIAL [is] a profound human document… it is hot to the touch in ways that are both memorable and disturbing.”
-New York Times
“[Stern’s] commitment to introspection makes for a book that is memorably searing…”
-New York Times Book Review
“[Denial is a] powerfully constructed memoir … [an] incandescently honest book…”
“[Stern’s rapist] whose chaotic life and whose own probable victimization Stern reconstructs, caused her lifelong anguish. She doesn’t simply tell us so but shows us in shattered, artfully repetitive narration.”
“…An intense and honest examination…DENIAL is a touching portrait of how the after affects of trauma can influence the personal and professional life of its victim.”
“An extraordinary memoir conveys Stern’s process of denial, dissociation, and healing in her dawning realization of intolerable truths.”
“a compelling investigation into her own life, the life of the serial rapist who committed at least 44 similar crimes and the way trauma affects everyone it touches, sometimes in surprisingly positive ways.”
“In this skillfully wrought, powerful study, a terrorism expert, national security adviser, and lecturer at Harvard, returns to a definitive episode of terror in her own early life and traces its grim, damaging ramifications… Stern’s work is a strong, clear-eyed, elucidating study of the profound reverberations of trauma.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Wonderfully compassionate, absorbing reading for anyone.”
-Booklist (starred review)
“Most moving is the author’s contemplation of denial itself, and its effect of re-victimizing the victim… She successfully unearths difficult emotional terrain without sinking into utter subjectivity and maintains an orderly progression without becoming clinical. A disturbing, captivating memoir.”
“Jessica Stern has written a remarkable book, unlike any that I’ve read. This deeply personal and often painful reflection documents the costs of personal, familial, and community silence as well as the liberating effects of truthful testimony.”
-Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and author of Multiple Intelligences
“One of the most important books I have read in a decade….Brave, life changing and gripping as a thriller...A tour de force.”
“[An] eloquent, vital book. . .brilliant [and] indispensable.”
-Cleveland Plain Dealer
“[A] harrowing memoir of a girl whom trauma has taught to distrust herself and who learns to live with the idea of her helplessness...an appeal to compassion and forgiveness, rather than a condemnation of the destructive impulses that haunt each of us.”
-Susanna Moore, author of IN THE CUT
“A masterpiece. A remarkable human journey from confusion and doubt to clarity and perspective.”
-Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. Professor of Psychiatry, Boston University Medical School and Founder and Medical Director of the Trauma Center
“An unflinchingly courageous self-examination... riveting and brilliantly told story... The book will be illuminating for victims and survivors of trauma, those who work or live with them, family members with generational histories of trauma, and for those who care about how our histories shape our lives.”
-Edward R. Shapiro, M.D. Medical Director and CEO, Austen Riggs Center and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine
“A memorable, powerful and deeply courageous book, DENIAL is also a riveting read... With devastating honesty [Stern] explores the impact of trauma on victims and those close to them, and the costs of denial for both.”
-Louise Richardson, author of WHAT TERRORISTS WANT
“[Denial] will allow people into parts of themselves they didn’t ven knew they had. Parts full of rage, of terror, of pride in their own detachment... For anyone who has lived at proximity to violence, it is one of the most necessary accounts of our time.”
-Eliza Griswold, journalist and author of WIDEAWAKE FIELD