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South of Forgiveness

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About the Author

Thordis Elva is known to Icelanders as a writer, journalist, public speaker, and Woman of the Year 2015. Nine of her plays have been professionally produced and her book about gender-based violence earned her a nomination for the Icelandic Literature Prize. In 2011, she founded an equality campaign that sparked a national debate, and in 2012 she was commissioned to reinvent the approach to violence prevention and sex education in Icelandic schools, resulting in award-winning short films. She has been the Chairman of the Board of the Icelandic Women's Shelter, has served on government committees, and is a sought-after speaker on subjects like gender equality and non-consensual pornography. She holds a BA in theatre, an MA in Editing and Publishing, and currently resides in Stockholm, Sweden with her partner Vidir and their son. Thomas Stranger is based in Sydney, Australia. He has worked in both the youth and outdoor recreation sector since completing his Bachelor of Social Science in 2002. He also holds Certificate III and IV in Youth Work and is currently in the latter stages of a Masters of Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. Outdoor and water based pursuits have been a steady and constant source of rejuvenation, and it's safe to say this will always be the case. His career path has seen him work in various sectors (Community Services, Charity, Construction, Hospitality) and he remains open to opportunities for change and challenge in the future, but for now is deeply content working locally and residing by Sydney harbour with his fiance Cat.


'Extraordinarily moving ... Hats off to Elva and Stranger for a brave journey that might well change lives.'

-- Christina Patterson * The Sunday Times *

Every man, woman and couple should read this book. And the woman and man that wrote it ought to be garlanded with medals. It's an unprecedented achievement.'

-- Sandi Toksvig

'An incredible achievement. Everyone could benefit from reading this book. I'm certainly richer as a result of having done so. Absolutely recommended.'

-- Arni Arnason * UK rock band The Vaccines *

'Thordis and Tom take daring steps into the minefield of the most fragile issues of our times. By confronting the stigma of victim and perpetrator they give us valuable insight into the darker corners of our existence.'

-- Andri Snaer Magnason * author and Icelandic Presidential candidate *

'A profoundly moving, open chested, and critical book. An exploration into sexual violence and self-knowledge that can only shine a healing light into the shrouded corners of our universal humanity. There is a disarming power in these pages that has the potential to change our language, shift our divisions, and invite us to be brave in discussing this pressing, global issue.'

-- Pat Mitchell * Chair of the Sundance Institute and Women's Media Center *

'Written with sensitivity, courage and compassion, this book is a shared, outer and inner journey of recovery. In this intimate account of that journey, the story draws attention to one of the most overlooked perspectives regarding the act and meaning of rape: the shame of rape, harboured by the victim, belongs in fact to the perpetrator. Without any leanings toward self-indulgence, it is a deeply honest exploration of the dynamics of forgiveness and personal transformation. I felt as if I was with them (and their loved ones) on their journey. I will remember it and recommend it for a long time to come.'

-- Dr Ian McCallum

'What saves South of Forgiveness from being a book-length rehashing of old hurts interspersed with worthy sentiments about forgiveness, is the blossoming of Elva and Stranger's personal quest into something larger. As they pick apart the whys of Stranger's actions (while never for a moment excusing them), they have some important insights about the way our culture can lead young men to feel a dangerous sense of entitlement over women's bodies ... Some will find the idea of a rapist educating people about rape absurd and offensive ... But the same things that make [Tom's] venture fraught might make it actually work ... [A] genuine, wholehearted attempt to change the conversation around rape.'

-- Emily Maguire * Sydney Morning Herald *

'South of Forgiveness reads like group therapy: deep pain is unearthed and examined like a jewel beneath a light. Crucially, Elva has the humility to claim she has the same capacity for darkness as Stranger, yet the privilege and power he is afforded as a man means he is more inclined to commit violence ... By owning the label ''rapist'' and exploring his motivations, Stranger allows the mythical perpetrator to be demystified. The monstrous shadow is given meek human form, allowing men's actions, not women's, to be interrogated. And through her informed analysis of gender inequality, Elva reveals the social mechanisms that create male sexual entitlement.'

-- Lou Heinrich * Weekend Australian *

'Both Elva and Stranger have been brave enough to publicly expose their separate vulnerabilities, in order to contribute to an important debate about sexual violence.'

* The Irish Times *

'Elva and Stranger's story ... [is] as compelling and uncomfortable as it is complex. The resulting book, South of Forgiveness, is one the reader will barely be able to wrench themselves from.'

* Sunday Business Post Dublin *

'Very brave.'

* Catholic Herald *

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