A voice for others speaks for herself

TWENTY-THREE YEARS AGO, LAURIE HALSE Anderson woke up to the sound of a young girl wailing. Pulling herself from bed, she rushed to check on her daughters. Both were sleeping peacefully. The cries, she realized, had come from her own nightmare—an image of a girl, broken and sobbing. She sat down to write about what she’d dreamt. Those midnight notes turned into Anderson’s first novel, Speak, a landmark work of young-adult fiction about a 14-year-old girl’s battle with depression after she is raped by an older peer.

In the 20 years since Speak was published in 1999, it has sold more than 3 million copies and won multiple awards. The novel has been analyzed in classrooms and adapted into a 2004 movie starring Kristen Stewart. In that time, Anderson’s book-signing table has become a nondenominational confessional, a sacred site where those who have suffered sexual violence can lean in to whisper their stories in her ears. Now, inspired by the rising tide of the #MeToo movement and our national reckoning

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