Title: Denial: A Memoir of Terror
Author: Jessica Stern
Publication Date: June 22, 2010
Hardcover: 330 pages
I have been quiet, and I have listened all my life. But now, I will finally speak. Alone in an unlocked house in a safe neighbourhood in the suburban town of Concord, MA, two obedient, good girls, Jessica Stern, 15, and her sister, 14, were raped on the night of October 1, 1973. When they reported the crime, the police were skeptical. Their father, away on business, did not return for three more days. Following the example of her family, Stern – who lost her mother at the age of three – denied her pain and kept striving to achieve. 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 thought she’d disassociated from the trauma altogether, until a request took her back to that night more than 30 years earlier. The world-class social scientist and expert on terrorism and post-traumatic stress disorder began her own investigation, with the help of a devoted police lieutenant, to find the truth about her rapist, the town of Concord, her own family, and her own mind. The result is “Denial”, a candid and deeply intimate look at a life, a trauma, and its aftermath.
Denial: A Memoir of Terror by Jessica Stern is a deeply personal, raw, and profound look at the effects trauma has on an individual, the lengths one’s brain will go to, to protect itself, and the damages stemming from denial. As my reader’s know, I am a fan of memoirs, it is one of my most favourite genres and I have read my fair share of memoirs and this is the first memoir that is so honestly fresh, raw and written in a flawed manner that one gets the impression the reader is personally hearing Jessica talk about her life.
In 1973 two sisters, 15-year-old Jessica and 14-year-old Sara were raped at gunpoint by an unknown assailant, the search for the rapist was dropped after 4 months. Each sister responded differently and Jessica believed it helped to make her focused and strong, skills that make her excel at her job investigating terrorists. Jessica learns many of her behaviours are most likely results of post-traumatic stress disorder, at the very least trauma. In 1996, Jessica was contacted by Lt. Macone to notify her he was reopening the case and could use her help if she was able. Stern writes about the process and her desire to interrogate her rapist, she wants to understand her rapist. In the process she learns the strong father she idolised was a terrorised child in Nazi Germany who has lived with his fears his whole life, even after escaping Germany.
The further she investigates the more she remembers and the more she learns about the processes of disassociation as well as how to begin to feel again. Denial is a work of love, healing, and tremendous strength and courage. Stern brings to the public what it is like first hand to be a victim and how one’s life can be forever changed. The writing is at times cold and detached as one may expect and it is through Stern’s honest account that her raw writing style makes Denial the most astonishingly profound memoir I have read to date. Without reservation I recommend Denial by Jessica Stern to any adult reader.
Jessica Stern is a Lecturer in Public Policy and a faculty affiliate of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. From 1994–95, she served as Director for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council, where she was responsible for national security policy toward Russia and the former Soviet states and for policies to reduce the threat of nuclear smuggling and terrorism. From 1998–99, she was the superterrorism Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and from 1995–96, she was a national Fellow at Hoover Institution at Stanford University. She also worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Stern received a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College in chemistry, a master of science degree from MIT, and a doctorate in public policy from Harvard. She is the author of the New York Times Notable Book Terror in the Name of God and The Ultimate Terrorists, as well as numerous articles on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
To learn more please visit Jessica’s website.
For more reviews of the book, please follow the book tour.
I received a complimentary copy of Denial by Jessica Stern from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.