Calling All Celebrity Activists

This week we’re writing about celebrities whom we would love to have read our books. When I first thought of of a few names, my literary heroes came to mind: Alice Sebold, Roxane Gay, Cheryl Strayed, and perhaps most of all, Maya Angelou. I love those writers because not only do they create such beautiful sentences and stories, but they raise much needed awareness for social issues. Their books are both art and activism.

(Fun fact: one reason I’m attached to my title, Caged Eyes, is because of the crossover with Angelou’s memoir, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, which is also partially about sexual abuse. Hers was one of the first memoirs on the topic. If I accomplished even a tiny fraction of what Angelou has, I’d be a lucky, lucky writer.)

But besides those powerhouse authors, there are so many other celebrities who have wide platforms and a voice for social issues. The name at the top of my celebrity wish list? Joe Biden. I had the privilege of hearing Biden speak last spring at CU-Boulder during the #ItsOnUs Campaign tour. I was blown away. I’ll be honest, his sincerity and the depth of his knowledge about violence against women shocked me. I hadn’t realized how involved Biden had been in drafting the crucial 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). There’s a chance that before I heard him speak, I thought his alleged passion for social justice issues was somehow disingenuous, perhaps part of politics-as-usual rhetoric. Not so. He clearly understands the dynamics of sexual violence and has a real passion for the movement to fight against it.

 

And the celebrity sidekick I’d love to have turning my memoir’s pages alongside him? Lady Gaga. While I’ve always loved her music and appreciated her messages of acceptance and empowerment, it wasn’t until she sang at the 2016 Academy Awards that I developed such a complete admiration for her. She performed her song, “‘Till it Happens To You,” which was originally written for the campus rape documentary, The Hunting Ground. As part of the media surrounding the Academy Awards, she described the fallout she experienced after being raped at the beginning of her music career. At the end of Gaga’s performance, 52 fellow survivors came out on the stage with her, wearing writing on their arms like “It’s Not Your Fault.” Lady Gaga’s performance that night – and Joe Biden’s introduction of her – were a rallying point for survivors of sexual violence. Her courage in telling her story so publicly gave others courage, and survivors all over the country united with her, even going so far as to get matching tattoos designed for Gaga and the 52 on stage with her.

Ultimately that’s what I want for Caged Eyes, for it to be a rallying point and a call to action for as many survivors and advocates as possible. I want Caged Eyes to be one more way those of us in this movement build community and are able to connect and collaborate with each other. So whether it’s Alice Sebold, Joe Biden, Lady Gaga – or any of the survivors who are already reading and messaging me – I’m thrilled to be in a position where it’s possible for my words to have a lasting effect.

 

 

 

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Lynn Hall is a memoirist, activist in the movement to end sexual violence, ultra-runner, and crazy cat lady. Her memoir, CAGED EYES: AN AIR FORCE CADET’S STORY OF RAPE AND RESILIENCE, was published by Beacon Press in February 2017. Her writing has previously appeared in the New York Times, The LA Times, Hippocampus Magazine, The Sexual Assault Report, The Manifest-Station, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and elsewhere. In the summers, Lynn copes with publication anxiety by spending too many days in the Colorado mountains, and in the winters, with pans of brownies. She lives in Boulder with her partner and their 23 cats. Just kidding…she only has five.

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