UT alumna Amy Gentry spoke about sexual violence and her writing career as part of Joynes Reading Room lecture series Thursday evening.
Every woman experiences sexual assualt in one form or another, whether personally or through friends, according to Gentry, a Plan II graduate and freelance writer.
“It was understood that rape is not rare, but rather something that every woman, in one sense or another, must spend her life navigating,” Gentry said. “If not through personal experience, then through fear and through the conversations…and the silences of friends.”
Gentry cited the study published by the UT Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault earlier this week, which estimates one-third of Texans will experience sexual violence in some forms over their lifetimes. Women are likely to experience it twice as many as men, according to the report.
Gentry is working on a novel about the “good victim.” Gentry said she knew she wanted to be a writer since fourth grade but started writing professionally five years ago.
“If anyone is contemplating on being a writer, you can do it straight out of undergraduate,” Gentry said. “You don’t have to take the long way around, and you don’t need to have a special degree to start doing it.”
The lecture series is a semester-long event sponsored by the Plan II Honors Program and the School of Undergraduate Studies. Writers and artists are invited to speak at the lecture series, according to senior program coordinator and lecturer Matthew Valentine.
Plan II and Business Honors freshman Dallas Killeen said Amy’s lecture provoked him to think more thoroughly about sexual assault issues at UT.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the breadth of the topic,” Killeen said. “It also made me think of sexual assault and rape pervading film and television which I’m more exposed to, and kind of provoked thoughts for me to explore those topics.”
Matthew Valentine, host of the lecture series since it started in 2006, said he had known Gentry since they were both enrolled in Plan II Honors. Valentine graduated in 2000 and Gentry in 2001.
“Amy was one of the central figures among the community of writers in Austin,” Valentine said. “She has a lot to say about contemporary literature. Several people in the [lecture series] committee were familiar with her work.”
Valentine said some people visited the Joynes Reading Room as budding writers, who later went on to win international awards, while others after they had been famous.
“I hope it is instructional and inspirational for students who love reading and want to be writers,” Valentine said. “I hope they feel empowered to write. Maybe some of them will come back as speakers one day.”