The Telling

Telling Cover 3The Telling

For over a decade, Zoe Zolbrod kept a complicated and troubling secret: Between the ages of four and five, she was routinely molested by her teenaged cousin. When she finally decided to talk about it, she wasn’t sure what to expect, what to say, or who to tell. Through a kaleidoscopic series of experiences—Zolbrod hitchhikes with a boyfriend from one coast to another, meets and marries her husband, and gives birth to her children—she traces the development of her sexuality, her relationships with men, and the cultivation of her motherhood in the shadow of her childhood sexual abuse. Bolstered with research, Zolbrod argues passionately for the empowerment of sexual abuse victims and the courage it takes to talk about it.

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Reviews of The Telling

“Although the book is not especially lengthy, the generous perspective and time-shifting capaciousness with which Zolbrod approaches her material makes the memoir feel big. It ends up being a story not only of trauma, but of how she has become the individual — the daughter, the partner, the mother, the writer — that she is today. The writing feels big-brained, thanks to the research she includes alongside her more intimate reckoning. . . . So too does Zolbrod’s approach feel big-hearted. . . ”
—Kathleen Rooney, Chicago Tribune

“Her book demonstrates this ability to sit with discomfort and obscurity and reel with it until the darkness yields to greater understanding, expression, self-possession, and relationships with others. All readers, whether they have abuse in their pasts or not, can learn from her keen insight, her generosity and compassion with her parents who failed to protect her, and her cousin whose actions altered the course of her life.”
—Gila Lyons, Bitch Magazine

“Zolbrod’s book is not just the story of her abuse or a book designed to reach only those who’ve suffered similar injuries. Instead, it’s a book for all of us, one that helps us to question and to gain perspective on injustices in our own lives and those in society at large. Zolbrod provides us the space to acknowledge how each of us are damaged by invasive or unjust experiences and allows us the luxury of rejecting an all-or-nothing mentality that demands we either ignore our distress or that we be defined by it.”
—Amy Strauss Friedman, NewCityLit

“…The author must know that she has done this, that this book is her howl, her fire, her testament, her therapy. Although nothing past can be redone, everything past can be retold, and it is in the telling of our own stories that we can gather our whole self, and name it, and claim ourselves. This is The Telling.”
—Maggie May Ethridge, Diagram

“Zolbrod, a novelist and editor for the Rumpus, who was molested starting when she was four by a teenage cousin living with her family, wrestles in clear-eyed, honest prose with her resulting uncertainties, conflicting emotions, and determination to move forward. Growing up white-collar in blue-collar Pennsylvania, she’s very close to her father but has a more tense relationship with her mother. She’s 12 when she first tells a friend what her cousin did, but she doesn’t yet understand it. Years pass before Zolbrod, in college, opens up again, this time to a boyfriend. In her late 20s, after unexpectedly blurting out what happened to her aunt, she finally discloses the abuse to her parents. She wants them to be outraged, but their muted responses leave her feeling like “the secret was out, and it didn’t matter.” She’s angry and confused as she probes whether she was all that traumatized and what it means if she decides, contrary to the current cultural attitudes about child sexual abuse, that she wasn’t. Zolbrod shows great courage as she tries to answer difficult and troubling questions about herself and her family, a powerfully rendered struggle that will strike a chord with abuse survivors and their loved ones.
Publishers Weekly

“An honest, unapologetic, and keenly observed memoir.”
Kirkus Review

Praise for The Telling

“Dusk is now settling around my house and I’m just emerging from the spell of Zoe Zolbrod’s transfixing memoir: I sat down, as you will, to read ten pages and ending up devouring the entire thing in one breathless gulp. Though ostensibly a tale of heartbreaking childhood molestation, The Telling is much, much more: A complicated, layered commentary on coming of age in America, on the limits of gender, on what it means to be a young girl, a young woman, a mother, a daughter, at this moment in history. Spiked with Zolbrod’s humor and her novelist’s eye for detail, this layered, ingeniously constructed story reminded me of so many favorite memoirs of recent years, from Alice Sebold’s Lucky to Claire Dederer’s Poser, but Zolbrod’s spiky, uncompromising style is utterly her own.”
—Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year and A Fortunate Age

“The Telling is a necessary book; hard at times, yes, often breathtakingly beautiful, and most importantly, profoundly accessible. Childhood sexual abuse is a subject we hide from—it’s too awful, too taboo—but here, Zolbrod gives us nuance and complexity, truth that pushes past the single story of victim and into this beautiful mess of a life. At times, I wanted to set the walls on fire. At times, I wanted to put down the book and hug my small son. At times, I was swept away in the narrative, an expertly woven structure of what a young girl lived and a grown woman understood. And always, the questions: when and how and who do you tell? Zolbrod is telling us. Let’s listen.”
— Megan Stielstra, author of Once I Was Cool

“The job of the memoirist is to draw our gaze to the things that most scare us, and to hold it. In this way, they show us that it is possible to hold our whole truths. To do this well, they must enact such looking at the most intimate level. Only the most brave and honest writers can withstand this, the ones with a certain fortitude of self. Zoe Zolbrod is one such writer. She withholds nothing in The Telling, invites us into the deep examination of her own most changing experiences and she does so with skill, equanimity, and grace.”
—Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me

“One of the most stunning memoirs I’ve ever read. In this perfectly-crafted story Zolbrod exercises her impeccable command of language to explore a dark subject with beauty, humility and fierce grace.  This book burns bright on the list of those that will stay with me for years to come.”
—Claire Bidwell Smith, author of After This and The Rules of Inheritance

“Zoe Zolbrod’s memoir about coming to terms with her childhood sexual abuse is evocative, fiercely intelligent, and beautifully constructed. It also manages to be compulsively readable, a rare quality in a book dealing with such difficult subject matter. In telling her story, Zolbrod becomes a time traveler, making elegant leaps from early childhood to her unconventional coming of age to the embattled but deep satisfactions of her own motherhood. The result is a book that ponders the way the past informs the present—and the mysterious manner in which resilience works.”
—Claire Dederer, author of Poser: My Life in 23 Poses

“Zoe Zolbrod’s Memoir Scales is a necessary memoir in every way. With remarkable restraint and grace, Zolbrod shows what telling the truth costs us, and what essential essence in the teller it sets free.”
—Emily Rapp, author of The Still Point of the Turning World and Poster Child: A Memoir

“This remarkable memoir shines a light into the most shadowy corners of the soul and brilliantly demonstrates the transcendent power of truth. Both authentic and likable, Zolbrod weaves a masterful and compelling narrative and examines tough issues with remarkable nuance and sensitivity. I will not soon forget this beautiful book.”
—Jillian Lauren NY Times bestselling author of Some Girls: My Life in a Harem and Everything You Ever Wanted

“A gripping read. The Telling is brutally honest, relentlessly passionate and ferociously intelligent. Zolbrod has written a page turner—one unlike any you’ve ever experienced before.”
—Rob Roberge, author of Liar

“A book that will ABSOLUTELY be a huge asset to abuse survivors and their families, The Telling is also a memoir that is no more singularly specific to that population than having personally hiked the PCT was to the many fans of WILD, or involvement in the Hans Reiser murder case was to fans of The Adderall Diaries. What you need to love this memoir is to have ever grown up wondering if you really fit in to the narrative that seemed to be assigned to you; to have ever wanted to live life on a large canvas even if it meant being reckless; to have ever had a family secret (because wow, this book is full of them in ways the review doesn’t allude to); to have been punk or anarchist or just fascinated by any of those things in the 80s/90s; to have ever parented a child; to have ever been a girl becoming a woman or a woman looking back on being a girl. One of the best memoirs of 2016, or any recent year, you should buy a copy, because no one wrestles with sticky psychology on the page quite like Zoe, and despite the serious subject matter, the book is also kind of a wild ride.”
—Gina Frangello, author of Life in Men and Every Kind of Wanting


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