Under the Dentist’s Knife

As I’m finishing a book about, essentially, pain, maybe it’s fitting that I undergo my own particular pain experience.

In the oral surgeon’s chair, as he came at my face with a small, extremely sharp blade, he paused for a moment and said I was welcome to watch, but I likely wanted to close my eyes. I definitely closed my eyes. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to open my eyes. Almost immediately, my mouth was suffused with salty, rich blood: the taste of the sea and the earth.

While allowing my mouth and those stitches time to repair, I read Chanel Miller’s  gorgeous book — this young woman known as Emily Doe, who was assaulted on the Stanford campus. Her book is filled with food — chocolate and pork dumplings — and begonias, with love of rain falling on skin and a young woman’s excitement about living in a city, but also filled with bodily pain and the complexity of living in a female body in America.

Of all the books I read this year, this author is likely my most favorite, this young woman who took this unasked-for experience, endured, and turned it into strength for so many other women.

Her victim impact statement that initiated the book can be read here.

I survived because I remained soft, because I listened, because I wrote. Because I huddled close to my truth, protected it like a tiny flame in a terrible storm… Stay tender with your power.

—Chanel Miller, Know My Name

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By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.

5 comments

  1. Chanel’s assault was a wake-up call for women all over the world. Her victim statement is powerful. I love the quote while feeling such extreme sorrow for all she had to endure.

  2. Hey Brett — Wanted to reach out and let you know I’m so sorry about your need to have oral surgery and that I’d like to email you but have had an email crash event and lost your email. Could you kindly email me? Hugs to you and the girls and kitties.

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