Dr. Laura Gray-Rosendale is a President’s Distinguished Teaching Fellow, Professor of English, and the Director of STAR English (a writing program for “at risk” students) at Northern Arizona University.
In addition to amassing an impressive record of publication in rhetoric, her academic field, Laura Gray-Rosendale wrote and recently published “College Girl: A Memoir.” The memoir, which has already received quite a bit of attention and acclaim (including being named Mountain Living Magazine’s Book of the Year), tells in unblinking detail the story of the brutal sexual assault Laura suffered while an undergraduate student at Syracuse University in 1988. Her attacker, an intruder and complete stranger to her, was the grandson of wealthy, prominent donors to the university.
The story tracks Laura’s recovery not only from the violent rape but also from the stress inflicted upon her by the rapist’s family, the university, and the district attorney’s office. The harrowing narrative is compelling, but most admirable is Laura’s artful telling. Traumatic content tends to have its own sort of energy in first-person nonfiction. Readers empathize with the real-person victim and naturally turn the page to see what happens next, hoping for a moment of uplift and personal triumph at the end.
Laura’s memoir succeeds in that regard, but it transcends the expected form through its attention to language–the disintegrated, broken language of trauma, the rhetoric of “victim” narratives which further victimize the raped person, and, ultimately, the language of recovery, of the search for the strong, authentic voice through which the survivor can speak truly. In “College Girl,” Laura Gray-Rosendale’s battle to find her clear, strong voice unfolds movingly on the page. This exceptional writer and true-storyteller has written an important book which will inspire survivors of sexual assault and those of us who love them.