UL hoping to start campus-wide discussion on rape culture with Asking for It

Best selling novel Asking for It by Louise O’Neill has been chosen for the University of Limerick’s 2017 One Campus, One Book project, to start a conversation about rape culture in Ireland.

The initiative, run by the university’s Regional Writing Centre (RWC), encourages students and staff to read the same novel and talk it through with one another.

RWC Co-Director Lawrence Cleary explained that Louise’s novel was chosen because, "the issue of consent addressed in the novel is relevant to everyone, regardless of age. The novel is written to be digested easily, but at times hits you right in the gut."

The project also includes two events with the author of the chosen book and Mr Cleary believes the themes of the novel make it the "perfect" choice to discuss at the on-campus event.

The first event will be held on the university campus on March 1, where Louise will read a short passage from the novel and will have a question and answer session with the audience afterward.

"I was thrilled when I heard that UL had chosen Asking for It as the novel for their One Campus, One Book project as it's such a huge honour," said Ms O’Neill.

Bestselling author, Louise O'Neill.

O’Neill told the RWC that attendees can expect "heated debates", due to the nature of the story told through the eyes of an 18-year-old girl.

"The university campus is too often a battleground when it comes to issues around sexual consent and it is truly heartening to see UL choose a novel that attempts to address some of these issues," the author told us.

"In my first visit to UL, I want to start a discussion around the social and political themes of the novel. I'm hoping that all those attending will take part in a lively debate and tease out their own beliefs about the subject of rape culture and victim blaming.

"It's so important that we talk about these issues. That was why I wrote the novel in the first place, because I wanted to be part of a conversation around how we see and view women, and to highlight what needs to be changed.

"University campuses are the front line when it comes to sexual violence. We can see that in the statistics given to us by the Rape Crisis centres around the country - they see an inordinate amount of college students availing of their services.

"It's been heartening in recent years to see universities around Ireland discuss introducing consent workshops for students as consent is really the crux of the matter when it comes to many rape cases.

"I hope that by choosing Asking for It for this project, UL can facilitate a campus-wide discussion on rape, consent, slut-shaming, and victim-blaming."

The second event, How I Write, will take place on April 5 and focuses more on O’Neill’s writing processes and strategies.

"It will be interesting to see how writing her newspaper column, or blog, or tweets informs Louise’s approach to her novel-writing," said Mr Cleary.

Louise added: "The way in which writers' work differs wildly from one to the other. I write in a slow and steady fashion, plodding my way through, taking it 1,000 words at a time.

"I think it's important for people to understand that there is no right or wrong way to write, but the important thing is that they do write.

"Get the words down on the page. Get that first draft finished. You can always edit it afterwards but you can't edit a blank page," said Louise.

Previously selected books for the initiative include Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume, The Thrill of It All by Joseph O’Connor and The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan, who recommended Asking for It be this year’s novel, according to Aoife Lenihan, RWC Co-Director.

Asking for it is Louise O’Neill’s second novel and it won Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2015. It also spent 34 weeks in the Irish top 10 bestseller list. A documentary of the same name - on the subject of rape culture and presented by Louise O’Neill - was aired in November of last year.

Louise recently sent her third novel off to her publisher and has already begun working on her fourth book.

The UL One Campus, One Book discussion with Louise O’Neill will take place on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 4.30pm in Kemmy Business School, UL (KBG12). The event is open to the public but booking is required by email to writingcentre@ul.ie.

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