V (formerly Eve Ensler) discusses her book “The Arithmetic”

The COVID-19 pandemic may have caused countless businesses and homes to close their doors to the world, but it also inspired V (formerly Eve Ensler) to open a door on her journal, poems, and archives of her other written work.

clerk The Vagina Monologues69, has collected these archives for her latest book, the account. Divided into topics such as “The Walls,” femicide, AIDS, and grief, her new book asks the reader to reckon with the pain that is out there in the world—whether it be the current systemic racism prevalent in the United States or the country’s past treatment of the AIDS epidemic—and come to understand how things came to be. As such and what can be changed in the future.

However, this is not V’s first diary. In 2019, V apologies, a haunting look at her childhood, which was ruined by a sexually and physically abusive father. Written from her late father’s point of view as an apology to his daughter, V tells the people writing that story to “set her free.”

“As a survivor of sexual and physical abuse, I think I’ve been waiting 60 years for an apology from my father. So that was definitely the basis of it, the need for that reckoning and accountability,” V told PEOPLE at the time of the release. “And [the need] To be free from the force with which I feel my life has been framed for so many years.”

V also discusses abuse in account As she details the atrocities she witnessed from women around the world, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Bosnia. Her book aims to inform readers about these horrors, while also asking them to sit through the pain of the subjects—and then push themselves to make a change.

By establishing its various campaigns, most notably One billion moreV, which strives to end violence against all women globally, is changing the staggering statistic that one in three women will be raped or abused in their lifetime. Her activism, life experiences, and more are explored in the latest addition to the author’s impressive repertoire.

People sat down with the Tony Award-winning author to discuss her newly published memoir.


What is your definition of an account?

I would say it’s accounting, it’s looking back, it’s confrontation, it’s acknowledging that something happened and considering it. In some ways, it’s kind of like walking through the wound, and it’s a portal. In accounting for something, you come to terms with it, acknowledge that it happened, and see where you are responsible, what you could have done better, what you didn’t do right, and what you could do in the future.

You included a lot of different stories in the book from different parts of your life. How did you go about choosing which stories to include?

I think it all really started with this story and with this decision to do this book during COVID, where those of us who were lucky enough not to have front line jobs were locked in our homes with our thoughts, memories, and ourselves for days on end. And it really became for me — and I think a lot of people — a kind of reckoning with our past, our childhood, all that stuff.

But at the same time, the world was at our fingertips and there was this massive cultural and political reckoning going on in this country, on many different levels.

For me, it was an expense in every way. I thought it would be the beginning of reckoning in this country.

In thinking about the book, it was really looking at all the things that I’ve tried to account for in my life of writing, over my 45 years of writing, but also as an activist, as a woman, as a human being as someone involved in political movements. As I read and organize, the themes became clear, like “walls.” Well, how many places have I been to where there were walls, and I’d try to cross or enter? Killing women and AIDS, just looking at those topics. Also how for me personal and political matters have always been the same, they are never separate. They are always linked together.

Walter McBride/Getty

What message were you trying to get across?

In a country that is afraid to confront its history and own its history, we see that we are doomed to repeat it over and over again. We live in a continuous cycle of shocks and more shocks, which has led us to a real crisis in this country.

I truly believe that what we don’t count controls and defines us. So I think the big message of the book is, as difficult and painful as the reckoning is in the moment, it actually frees you up to have a life that you can go on without being burdened, guilty, exhausted, troubled, regressive, from the past.

read sometimes The stories you include can make the reader feel very small and so on Helpless like, “All these terrible things are happening. How can I make a difference against all these great giants?” How can the reader change this perspective?

We can take action, we can make a difference – and the world is totally and completely out of our control. Both of those things are true.

Don’t stay in the global mindset and get confused – say, “What can I do today? What generous and huge work can I do that can change something today?”

As part of a movement, I look at what global solidarity is, what a sense of brotherhood is, and what it means to be in struggle together. I have courage and I have hope and energy.

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Author perform The Vagina Monologues.

You describe some of the most painful and horrible human experiences in this book that you witnessed firsthand by talking to women who have experienced them. So after hearing stories like that, what are some areas in life where you personally find joy amidst all this sadness and pain?

I think one of the things about the honor and privilege of sitting with people and sharing their stories with you is knowing that you’re in this community, you’re in this connection with people. And you can also see those stories, but then you can also see these people becoming leaders, dancing, sharing joy, healing people, creating gardens and making magic.

I’ll tell you where most of the joy comes from: to be in solidarity with my sisters and brothers around the world who are rising up, who are resisting violence, who are trying to build and create global movements and global possibility for all of us who have come to realize that patriarchy is the paradigm that is killing us all. And when we come together to unpack it, the possibility of a real future is there.

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