Review: 'Jane Doe January'

Powerful memoir shows resilience among trauma

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By Rob Cline, correspondent

In 1992, Emily Winslow, then a college student in Pittsburgh, was raped by a stranger who followed her into her apartment building and forced his way into her home. At the time, her attacker was not caught. Twenty years later, a DNA match was found, and suddenly it appeared justice might be served.

Winslow, a novelist, recounts her experiences in her new non-fiction work “Jane Doe January: My Twenty-Year Search for Truth and Justice.” The book is a strikingly honest look at the facts, her feelings, and the relationships strengthened and tested by the opportunity to pursue a conviction of the man who raped her.

“Jane Doe January” is deeply invested in exploring the power and limitations of memory — both individual and institutional. As Winslow examines the law enforcement and medical paperwork from the attack, she discovers details she didn’t remember. A look at court transcripts reveals to her the ways in which even the disinterested recording of testimony can be skewed or inaccurate.

Throughout the book, Winslow’s thoughts and feelings are always clear on the page, even when she is considering errors and contradictions or the most desperate of her emotions. She is relentlessly candid about how she feels while also insisting on the individuality of those feelings rather than suggesting that she is a stand-in for all rape victims.

The book is a powerful testament to the efforts of police and lawyers to ensure a rapist is punished for his crimes. It is also a thorough investigation of the legal landscape for such cases. But most of all, “Jane Doe January” is a book about resilience, individual agency, and the value of friendship and kindness.

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