Meet Amanda - Transcript
This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled, “Meet Amanda.” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.
Listen to the episode here.
Amanda Knox: I do a lot of arts and crafts. I have three cats who I adore. I do a lot of cooking. I'm a big swing dancer. That's not something that everyone knows. But I love Lindy Hop. I also love to sing. And one of my sort of secret goals — or not-so-secret goals is I would love to be a voice actor. I would love to do cartoons, because I love silliness. And I think that I would be good at it if I could actually break into that world.
I’m Nora McInerny, and that was today’s guest, answering a hard-hitting question: How would she describe herself to someone who knew nothing about her? And aside from swing dancing and singing and cross-stitch, she revealed something deeply disturbing:
She doesn’t like sweets.
She just doesn’t care for them.
She eats her oatmeal savory.
And that’s why you come to “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” You come for the hard-hitting stories.
There’s a reason why I asked Amanda to describe herself to a person who knows NOTHING about her. And that’s because … it hardly ever happens. It probably hasn’t happened for over a decade. Because as soon as people hear her full name, they already have an opinion about her.
Today’s guest is Amanda Knox.
And as an experiment, I went on the “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” Instagram account and asked if you’d heard of Amanda Knox, and what you knew about her story. And the answers really ran the gamut. Hearing just that name, without any other context, listeners said that Amanda Knox was:
Framed for murder
Guilty of murder
Weird but innocent
Makes me never want to travel abroad
If you’ve never heard of Amanda Knox, she is so thrilled to hear that. And if you have heard of Amanda, you probably already have some predetermined opinion of her. Of her character. Of her innocence. And she’s used to that.
We’re not going to get into the minutiae of the crime that Amanda was wrongfully convicted and later fully exonerated for, because there are quite literally tens of thousands of articles and documentaries and podcasts about it and you can easily find those anywhere on the internet. One of those documentaries was released on Netflix in 2016 and is one that Amanda actively participated in.
But here are the key points you need to know for the sake of this episode:
In November 2007, Amanda was a college student studying abroad in Italy. Her roommate, Meredith, was murdered in the apartment that she and Amanda shared with two other women.
Italian law enforcement immediately pointed fingers at Amanda and the Italian man she’d recently started dating … despite there being ZERO evidence linking Amanda to Meredith’s murder.
We really gotta harp on this point: Even without any evidence implicating Amanda, she was convicted for Meredith’s murder and spent the next four years in an Italian prison.
In 2008, a man named Rudy Guede was convicted of Meredith’s murder. In 2011, Amanda was acquitted of the crime and released from prison following a complicated appeals process that we’re not even going to try to explain.
Amanda was then completely exonerated by the Italian government in 2015.
And all this is Googleable. All of this comes up when you google Amanda Knox. This is considered her story.
Amanda Knox: First of all, the Amanda Knox Saga, when people think of that, what they're often thinking about is not even my own saga, because what they're thinking about is the murder of my roommate by this burgular named Rudy Guede. So Meredith Kercher’s murder by Rudy Guede is often what people think of when they think of The Amanda Knox Saga. And that is not my story. I actually have nothing to do, I'm like I am a peripheral person in that story. And so there's that first sort of obstacle as I encounter the world where when I talk about my story, what people think I'm talking about is the murder of Meredith Kercher by this other person named Rudy Guede. When, in fact, my story is tangential to that story. But it is not that story. My story is: I was a peripheral person to this story, but I got sucked into it as someone who shouldn't have been there in the first place and whose life was then defined by this other thing that I had nothing to do with. And I spent time in prison because of that. And I was, you know, mercilessly slut shamed and character assassinated in the media because of it. And my ongoing journey to reestablish myself in the real world is constantly encountering these obstacles because of that misappropriation of my identity, in regards to this other story completely. So that is one of the key problems is it's like, what we are even talking about is not the same thing.
Nora McInerny: Yes, yes. Because if things had unspooled differently, your Google results would be whatever you decided they are. It would be a story that you told to maybe a couple people, right? "My roommate was killed when I studied abroad. It was really horrible." It would not be the headline for anybody who met you.
Amanda Knox: And it wouldn’t be Meredith's headline. Like, that's, that's the other thing, is it's like Meredith was a real person who was really murdered by this other real person. And people conflate her tragedy with my tragedy. And then the problem becomes, “Well, if there's a victim in this story, who is the victim? We have to choose.” And it's like, no, we don't. Because what happened to Meredith was this deeply traumatic, horrible, horrible tragedy. And she was the victim of that tragedy. And then, after that happened, then something tragic happened to me as a consequence of that. But it's not like we have to choose. Like, Meredith is no less of a victim, because I also ended up becoming a victim of something different, of someone else's bad decision making. There are lots of ways that people process their own traumas, right? And one of the difficulties that I have found is that in processing my own trauma, in talking to people about it or even doing something like making jokes about it, I am constantly accused of being callous towards the true victim of this tragedy. And it's like, look, I have never made a joke about Meredith being murdered by Rudy Guede. I would never do something like that. If I'm going to be making any jokes at anyone's expense, it's probably the Italian authorities who fucked me over. That is the kind of processing that I'm doing of my own experience. And in no way would I ever want to cast any kind of judgment or light on Meredith's tragedy, because, like of all the people in the world, she's the one who doesn't have the voice because that was stolen from her.
And in a way, so was Amanda’s. At least for a long time. She spent four years in an Italian prison for starters, two of them while she was awaiting trial. And even though the case was very big news when I was in my early 20s, we never really heard from Amanda herself. And I remember the media coverage. I remember that Amanda was known as “Foxy Knoxy” and was … I guess into sex? Very unusual for people in their 20s, I know. But there was a lot of judgment around her having sex. And the coverage also focused on how odd she was, and how she had a new boyfriend. And she was defined by the INTERNATIONAL press as weird, and possibly satanic? And for sure a murderer.
[START NEWS ARCHIVE FOOTAGE.]
“Good evening from Perugia, Italty, where tonight an American college student has been found guilty of murder in a case that has sparked international headlines nad controversy.”
“Prosecutors accused Knox, her boyfriend, and a third man of sexually assaulting and then killing Meredith Kercher after an argument.”
[audience whooping] “Let us look at the scene in that courtroom. The word the knox family has been waiting to hear. She is freed! Acquitted of the serious charges.”
“This is stunning news here in Italy. This is the trial of the century, and people were shocked because they were fed for years through the tabloid press these stories of sex orgies and satanism and ritualistic killings, all of which were totally false.”
[END OF NEWS ARCHIVE FOOTAGE.]
Nora McInerny: I want to hear from you, like, who you really are before this. So as you're sitting there, as you're hearing them be like, it's Foxy Knoxy, like who are you really?
Amanda Knox: I was the type of person who in high school, I was always doing the musicals, and I was in choir and I was, like, singing show tunes with my friends as we walked down the hall between classes. I was a person who really liked to go hiking, and I was a huge Harry Potter nerd. I was a nerd in general, just Star Wars, Star Trek, anything like that. And I really loved languages. I've read Harry Potter more than anyone else because I've also read it in multiple languages. [laughs] And that was me! Like, I was not the kid who was causing trouble. Like I balked at the idea of people going around and destroying people's Halloween pumpkins because that is supposedly fun. I was the type of kid who put myself to bed early. I was the kid who in college had, you know, the party phase in the first month of college because we all do. But then I burnt out really quickly from that and decided that I just wanted to spend all of my time in the rock climbing gym and studying poetry.
Our sense of self is so important, and so … fragile. It’s so easy to let ourselves be defined and redefined by the perceptions of others, to have one person’s opinion of us become The “capital t” truth of who we are. When the truth of who we are is as unclear as looking through a kaleidoscope. Turn the knob, and shift all the colors: You’re a villain, you’re a hero, you are good, you are bad. You are all of it. We all are. All of those colors apply, depending on the light, depending on who’s looking, and when.
Depending on who’s looking at me, I am the world’s best mother, or the world’s worst mother (really depends on how many treats and Robux I’m giving out). I am a kind person, or a horrible person (depending on what kind of day I’m having and whether I’ve had enough sleep). I’m good at my job, or this is the worst podcast that AngryListener456 has ever heard.
We live in a world where terrible, terrible things happen all the time. Children get incurable illnesses. Entire villages are wiped out with the click of a button on the other side of the world. The plates of the earth beneath us shift and an island collapses in on itself. So often the blame lies in a faceless entity or in nature herself, who is unaffected by our screams, by our suffering.
So when we can have a villain, when one is presented in front of us … it is cathartic. It is energizing. It is a place to put all of our ire, a face to put to the name of Evil.
And for years, that face was Amanda’s. And before it was Amanda, there have been plenty of people — and plenty of women — who bore the rage of an entire society. And maybe times have changed … and maybe they haven’t.
Nora McInerny: That this happened in the early aughts is so fascinating, because were this to happen in 2021 or even, you know, 2017, really, any sort of like more recent times, it might not have been better for you, but it definitely would have been different.
Amanda Knox: Mm hmm. There would have been a different cultural critique of the projections of character assassination that were put on me, I think. I think people would have been more attuned to being critical of that. Because we've had that cultural moment of thinking, “Oh, maybe we should question the way that we've always thought about women who are portrayed as train wrecks, or women who are trying to talk about the power differentials that are happening in the work environment while those power differentials are also existing in the courtroom environment and in the police department.” Like, all of these things are a part of how innocent people get taken advantage of and exploited, and I think that we're better able to recognize that today. But at the same time, today, we also are hyper-judgmental of each other. And as much as people are able to recognize that there was a problematic misogyny in my case, there's also people who continue to judge me for what happened in my interrogation, who blame me for a false confession that I did not author — the police authored. And that remains an issue to this day, because there is that sense of, “Well, there's just something about her that I want to judge negatively. I just feel badly about her. So in some way, this is her fault and she deserves it. And I have determined that she's a bad person based upon this feeling that I have. And I can't even pinpoint where that feeling comes from, but there it is.”
What does that do to a person? How do you continue to live and grow when for years you’ve been told the absolute worst about yourself? When some people still believe it, and always will?
What if the very worst thing that ever happened to you became the thing that defined you on Google and in casual conversation?
What would you do? How would you move forward?
We’ll be right back.
[START NEWS ARCHIVE FOOTAGE.]
“At last, the whole story. After the incredible reversal today in an Italian court of the murder conviction of student Amanda Knox.”
“And breaking news tonight: Amanda Knox finally home. That was the scene just a few minutes ago, short time ago, the plane carrying her and her family landed in Seattle.”
[END NEWS ARCHIVE FOOTAGE.]
After four years in an Italian prison, Amanda's wrongful conviction is overturned, and she’s brought back to the U.S. Brought back to her home in Seattle, where she grew up. A place that she really thought she’d never see again.
Nora McInerny: And when you come back to the U.S., when you smell the Pacific Northwest and you are home. You are back in the house where your mom made you breakfast every morning. Maybe she didn't. My mom never did. But it feels like you had that kind of mom. Having seen many clips of her, I feel like she definitely made you breakfast, or maybe your dad did. He also looks like he probably also coached soccer or something.
Amanda Knox: [laughs] He definitely spent a lot of time throwing the ball back and forth with me. He's a softball guy.
Nora McInerny: OK. And so you go back to this place that has so much sameness and you are so different, and the way you are perceived is so different. What is the process of realizing and trying to recover who you are and what this, what this means to you?
Amanda Knox: Mm hmm. Well, you've pinpointed something right there where I came home expecting to be able to go back to the life that I had before everything happened and to be the same person before everything happened. And what was a big shock to me and also to my family was that I was not the same person, and that life that I had before Italy did not exist anymore. And so instead of recovering my life, I had to rediscover my life. It's been a long time of trying to process how this experience has changed me and how it has changed the world around me. Because the world around me no longer reacts to me like a normal person. And I no longer react to the world the way that I would have prior to having had all this experience. So it's not even just the fact that I could no longer be an anonymous person, right? Like, that's the first really obvious thing that is no longer the same. I can't go to school without people taking photos of me in class. I can't get a job without people showing up at the counter wanting to take a picture of me. So, like, there's that issue, which is the very obvious problem of, OK, I'm no longer an anonymous person. I'm interacting with a world that has preconceived notions of me. And I am constantly in conversation with that. Like, that veil is between me and the other person. And everything I say and do is going to be seen through that veil. I don't even know what that veil looks like, because I don't know what that person has absorbed in the media. It happens pretty often where people come up to me and they say, “Gosh, you look really familiar,” or I'll pay for something at like a bakery and they'll see my, you know, my name on my card and they'll go, “Oh my gosh, do you know that you have the same name as the Amanda Knox person,” as a way to sort of like, hinting be like, are you that person? That happens, and that's an interesting dance that I have to grapple with. The more difficult ones are the ones where, for instance, when I drove up to get on a ferry, I handed over my credit card in order to pay and the person in the booth took my credit card was like, “Oh, my gosh, you're Amanda Knox. I have all of these questions about your interrogation. Why did you do this and why did you say that? And did you do a cartwheel?” Here he was holding my credit card, not giving it back to me as if like, he was entitled to answers to these questions, entitled to put me on trial again in the middle of my day when I'm just trying to, like, get on a ferry. And like, the only way for me to sort of like get through that experience with the least resistance was to calmly sort of answer his questions in a curt manner, as if, like, I am not inviting more of your questions, but I also don't want to call you an asshole for, like, doing this and dredging up my trauma in the middle of my day. And who are you and why are you entitled to those answers for me?
Nora McInerny: And also tell me about the worst thing that ever happened to you.
Amanda Knox: Yeah. And like, the last thing I need is for someone to be like, “I talked to Amanda Knox today, and she was a bitch to me, and I bet she's guilty.” And it's like, OK, fine, I'm going to calmly answer your questions that it is totally inappropriate for you to be putting me through this experience and just give me my card back, please. I gotta go.
Nora McInerny: Yeah! You should be able to be a bitch and still be innocent. [laughs]
Amanda Knox: [laughs] Yeah, well, and that's the dilemma, where a lot of people's judgments about whether or not I am guilty of a heinous crime have nothing to do with any sort of understanding of evidence, but have to do with how they feel about me at any given moment. I'm thinking about like, various times that I've been surprised to be dehumanized because like I expected online, that kind of thing. But when I encounter people in the real world, I usually have this sort of undying hope that, like, just because I'm a human being in front of you, you're going to like question your automatic impulse to, like, treat me like I am someone to be put on trial at your leisure, or for people to, like, make jokes at my expense that have to do with the mythology of this Foxy Knoxy character. And I have occasionally been really, really disappointed. [01:11:16][70.9]
Nora McInerny: When do you realize that not only is your story not your own, but that even being exonerated doesn't give you back your story?
Amanda Knox: That is an ongoing problem that my parents knew where it was going to be an issue for me, coming out. I could not have imagined and anticipated how real that problem was going to be. I was aware that in the courtroom I was a character and it was very clear because I was given nicknames. I was called Luciferina, and I was called, you know, Foxy Knoxy. And these were all character names that are being talked about in the courtroom and a person that is not me who is being described to a jury and having words put literally into her mouth. Like, my prosecutor was like, "Amanda probably said, 'Oh, this is what you get for being such a pure and innocent girl. Now we're going to force sex on you,'" like literal words being put into my mouth as this character. So I understood that there was a character that I was going to be combating in the courtroom. I did not realize how pervasive that character was going to be and how much of a feedback loop there was between the courtroom and the media and outside world that really gobbled up this character. It really resonated with people for some reason because it was such an easy character to hate. It was such, like, a cardboard villain. Disney could not have come up with a better evil person than Foxy Knoxy. [laughs]
Nora McInerny: And they have tried. They have tried. And you know what? Maleficent could never, she couldn't. [Amanda laughs.] And I find that so interesting because you said I didn't really get a chance to have my 20s and I did. And they were a shit show, Amanda.
Amanda Knox: I hear that.
Nora McInerny: They were disastrous.
Amanda Knox: Yeah, you know, it's interesting. One of the running jokes in my family and also between me and my husband is of all the people in our family and in our friend group to have gone to prison, Amanda went to prison. And so, to be represented as this, like, mythological, stereotypical, girl gone wild, trying to do everything to get male attention was this incredibly misogynistic fantasy that was projected onto me and based on nothing whatsoever. So that was unfortunate. And I'm in conversation with that to this day.
Nora McInerny: It is misogynistic because even like, even a true girl gone wild. This one. [Amanda laughs.] Contains multitudes, right, even a girl who will dance on a bar to “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” who will do, you know, a keg stand in a dress.
Amanda Knox: And, you know what? Like in your 20s, you're being playful, you're experimenting, you're figuring yourself out as a person. I went to parties, too, but I, you know, I don't think I've ever done a keg stand in a dress, but, like, there's nothing wrong with that. And one of the things that I also wanted to point out to the world is, like, I could have been a professional dominatrix and it shouldn't have mattered. I could have been a girl gone wild and it shouldn't have mattered, because the evidence wasn't there. I didn't have anything to do with this. And so the idea that, like just by virtue of being associated with deviant sex or being associated with alcohol or partying automatically means that you're the kind of person who would rape and murder your friend is a huge leap and is totally unfair and not realistic. It's just amazing to me the leaps that we can make about someone's guilt based upon something as divorced from murder as keg stands.
Having survived this kind of judgment and prosecution in the public sphere, Amanda is very attuned to the way that it shows up in society. How our knee-jerk reaction is to divide each other into neat piles of good and bad, when mostly we’re both. And what built up that reserve of nuance, or empathy, or whatever you want to call it … was prison.
Amanda Knox: Yeah, yeah. I mean, there's nothing like playing cards with a drug dealer and cooking together with someone who has murdered their own child to put some things into perspective, like mental illness and drug addiction and neglect. How many women I encountered in the prison environment who were products of their prior environment, which was very much an environment of abuse and neglect and poverty. And that was all they knew. And so I was in this environment where I was one of the few people who had all of my teeth. I was one of the few people who could read and write. I was one of the few people who actually had family who cared about me. I was one of the few people who knew that the earth was round, like who could tell time on a clock. Like this was how much neglect a large number of the women that I encountered in prison were exposed to. And they were survivalists who had made bad decisions in a bad environment and wound up in prison. And how much of that was their fault vs. everyone's fault? Doesn't excuse their crimes but does put them into context. And it does speak to how we should treat them, because dealing with these issues head on means not just locking people up and blaming them for their mistakes, but addressing the causes that led to them making bad decisions in the first place.
Nora McInerny: I mean, even when we want to keep ourselves separate — not just from the suffering of other people, but from the badness of other people or the mistakes of other people — we are so connected. There is nothing that happens in a vacuum.
Amanda Knox: Yeah, I agree. And, like, there's a lot of problems in society that we just have decided collectively that we don't want to deal with. So we're just going to let the police and the prosecutors deal with it. And we've only equipped those police and prosecutors with so many methods for dealing with those issues. And those methods are mostly punitive. So are we, in a sense, reinforcing our own problems by just being punitive, because we're choosing not to understand where they're coming from? And, are we then making our own society more unsafe because we're, you know, we're putting a Band-Aid on a festering wound is a question I'm constantly asking myself.
Nora McInerny: Yeah. And probably not a question that you would have been asking had you not been forced into this immersion of this, into these issues.
Amanda Knox: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I never would have thought of this. Like, first of all, like even just true crime as an idea was not something that was on my radar. Like I, again, Voldemort was the closest I got to true crime. I was not at all involved or interested in that subject matter because it didn't really, I was, I grew up in an environment where I just didn't really have to think about that. Like that was what bad people had to think about. And I never had to think about that, as I just followed the rules and did my thing and that, again, the police and the prosecutors would deal with that aspect of society that had nothing to do with me. And I very much became awakened to the reality that we are, like you said, all interconnected and we're all influencing each other. And to this day, I feel like I'm kind of a bridge between those two worlds: the world that I came from, where I was totally oblivious and I felt like I was totally disconnected; and this world of people who are entrenched in this machine that keeps churning them in and out of a punitive environment, both inside and out of prison. So there's that aspect of it. But then there's also the aspect of it of now I'm suddenly way more sensitive to how I see the treatment that I've felt happening to other people. And I see people practicing judgment and practicing scapegoating on a regular basis towards other people. And I feel like I have radar for it now and I can either choose to call it out, or I can choose to disappear and retreat from the world. And the thing that I've chosen to do is to not retreat and disappear and give up on humanity, but to instead try to open conversations with people about subjects that they just didn't have to think about before because no one ever stood up to them and said, “Hey, actually, I'm a real person and that person's real person, too.” It's complicated. It's nuanced. People don't even realize that they are acting entitled to other people's lives and identities and stories, and to have it pointed out to them, some people react well and some people are in total denial, and we're all on a journey of figuring that out.
Nora McInerny: I'm also one of these people sometimes, right? Where I can be hyper-attuned to the ways that we observe and judge and treat people. And also, I can be blind to it when I am sort of trying to, like, soothe some ancient part of my psyche, right?
Amanda Knox: Yeah, yeah no, it's totally instinctual. That's the trick is like, judging other people is an entirely instinctual thing that we all do. We are all guilty of that all the time. And all you can do is try to be aware of that, try to be aware of that instinct in yourself and ask yourself in the moment when you find yourself practicing that instinct, “Is that instinct merited right now? Is there a better meta analysis that I can be doing on my own feelings towards this other human being at this moment? Or am I indulging some kind of primal feeling that is all too often not questioned in our society? In fact, enforced and indulged?”
We’ll be right back.
Nora McInerny: You mentioned true crime and I have a ... I've got a really complicated relationship with it, right? And to watch this sort of like, culture grow and emerge and become a personality trait, which is like, “I love crimes!” and to not have to participate in it in any sort of deeper context, which is like how, and why, and what does this mean, and who does this affect? It's just very, very troubling to me. And you, you are true crime for some people.
Amanda Knox: Mm hmm. Yeah, I am true crime content. You know, my own podcast sometimes covers true crime subjects in large part because I'm a true crime subject, and a lot of people who feel themselves to be true crime subjects, true crime content, reach out to me, because they know that I can relate to that experience. And to your point, one of the biggest problems of the true crime genre is that the people who find themselves at the center of these stories, which are ultimately about judgment, never find their perspective, their voice to be a part of that authorship. The trick about like true crime is that it's true, so therefore we are just actively engaged enough that it's not just like we're passively listening to an interesting romance novel or a mystery novel. We are actively engaged, we're investigating, we're thinking about it. We're armchair detective-ing. And we feel entitled to do so, because there has been this tragic event, and this event that seems like we all have a stake in it, right? So we feel like we're entitled to that, and therefore we're entitled to the lives and the personalities of the people involved. What we don't think is that those people might not just have a perspective about what happened like as plot devices, but as actual people with perspective over the story that is being created around the event that happened and what I've attempted to do in my own work, having been on the wrong side of that kind of treatment of real life people and events, is to give the story back to the person who has the most at stake. You know? No story and no thing in history belongs to anyone, but the person who has the most at stake probably has a really, really worthwhile perspective. And if we're going to enter into a story as tragic and real that has real life consequences, we should start with the person who has the most at stake. So, an episode that we did was covering the Roman Polanski saga of him being on trial or people trying to get him on trial, but from the perspective of the young woman who was actually raped by Roman Polanski and her journey and how she has felt like she has been projected as a person who she's not — one, by the people who want to deny that she was ever assaulted in the first place; she was just this Lolita who was tempting Roman Polanski. And on the other side, people who want her to be the ultimate victim, to wreak vengeance upon this person with a ton of power when the reality is actually much more interesting. She is someone who did not want to be defined by this one horrible thing that happened to her. And she, on her own terms, came to a resolution between herself and her victimizer. And that story is not only ignored, but by others tried to be suppressed because it doesn't fit the morality tale that the vast majority of people want to tell. So giving her back her agency in a situation where she is denied agency all around is a fascinating story and one worth telling and worth listening to. And that's what I tried to do.
Amanda’s podcast is created with and produced by her husband, Christopher.
Nora McInerny: When did you and Chris meet?
Amanda Knox: So we met when his first novel was published, actually. I did a review of his book, War of the Encyclopaedists, and I was not intending to meet him at all. It occurred where I submitted my review, and then the very next day, I walked out of my apartment building, and I noticed a poster up on like, in a diner window for a book reading for this exact book that I had just reviewed. And this was at a time where I was still not going out to public things and very much just living my very quiet, isolated life. And I thought, “You know what, screw it. It's a small, you know, local author book reading. I can go to that, and it'll be OK. And I'll just sort of like, creep in in the background, and hopefully no one will notice me.” And of course everyone noticed me, and whispers abound. But I met this incredible author and his best friend who wrote a book together, and they had not followed my case at all. And we just had a really nice in-person interaction. We decided to become friends. And after many, many months we started dating.
Nora McInerny: Oh, my God. How did it feel to like, meet a person and just be like, "Hey, I'm Amanda," and have him be like, "Cool. And you reviewed my book. Like, what did you think?" Also, did you give his book a good review or...
Amanda Knox: I did, yeah. [laughs]I loved his book, which is part of the reason why I wanted to go to this book reading, because I thought it was like, hilarious and smart and silly and it was all the good things about a novel, so I can't speak well enough about it. What was really striking about that experience was precisely like, he didn't do the whole, "Whoa, you're Amanda Knox." Like, he hadn't followed my case. He didn't really know anything about it. And at the end of, like, talking to him, he was just like, "Hey, we should be friends." And it was the first time that I, like, this was very, very shortly after I was fully exonerated. And it was the first time that I thought, "Oh, my gosh, can I, like, meet people and make friends in the world like a normal person again? Like, is that something that is allowed me?" So they actually became some my first new people friends after the whole saga, because prior to that I just did not, I did not go out and meet people. I did not go into public spaces. I didn't trust new people, because I very often felt like whenever I walked into a room, like the person who preceded me was this idea of me. And I was constantly having to interact with people through this veil of prior judgment based upon what people had heard about my case. And I never really felt like I got a clean slate with anyone. And, with my husband — now husband — he just went out of his way when he first met me to never Google me. He really just wanted to encounter me as the person that I presented myself to be.
Christopher doesn’t get to know Amanda Knox: FOXY KNOXY. Or Amanda Knox: EXONEREE. He gets to know Amanda, a cute lady who showed up to his book event. Who likes food and cats and weird movies.
Amanda Knox: He invited me over to his place to make risotto. So we made risotto together. And then we watched this really campy, obscure movie called "Norwegian Ninja." Have you ever seen that movie?
Nora McInerny: I must have missed that one. [laughs]
Amanda Knox: It was a really great moment where we were connecting on this level of like, I am genuinely a very silly person. I really love to have fun. Like, at the end of the day, I want to listen to Weird Al. And he is also a very silly person when it all comes down to it. He like, used to do stand up where he’s just like this super white rapper guy. He would show up in these like, one-color outfits with giant, insane bling that he had personally made. Like, he took like a big bat wing toy and, like, put rhinestones on it. And like that was his, you know, shtick. So, like, him being a weirdo, silly person, we connected over that.
Christopher gives Amanda the immeasurable gift of allowing herself to be known as she is, not as she’s been presented to be. It is a rare gift in a world where we can quickly Google one another and find out how much someone’s house costs, or what their prom date looked like, or how they vote. He gives her the gift of being who she is, which is something that she’s still in the process of figuring out.
Amanda Knox: One of the challenges that I faced is, you know, from the beginning have said, like, I am not defined by this thing that happened to me. And then the rest of the world is like, “Yes, you are.” And I'm like, “No, no, I'm not. See? Look at all this work I'm doing and look at all these…” you know? And they're like, “No, no, you are. That's it.” And so it's this like, ongoing struggle of like oh, not only do we have to breach that conversation with ourselves. Like, am I defined by this thing that happened to me? How has it changed me? How have I grown inevitably because of this experience, and can I be the author of my own growth, or am I just the victim of my circumstances? Like these are all important questions that anyone who has gone through any kind of traumatic experience has to ask themselves. But then on top of that, to have the rest of the world saying, oh, and by the way, you live in this little box in our brains. And any time you try to poke outside of that box, we're going to slam the lid on you again. That's what it feels like.
The details of Amanda’s story are entirely her own. And the truth of it is so relatable to so many. Those questions she brought up are ones so many of us need the time and space to consider:
How am I defined by this thing that happened to me?
How have I grown inevitably because of this?
And how can I be the author of my own growth? Or am I just the victim of my experiences?
Amanda Knox: I've been fortunate. I really am grateful for the people that are in my life who recognize my humanity and who support me, because there are a lot of times where I don't feel like I can just be the person who stands up to it all the time. There are some times where I just want to hide and I just want to disappear. And I feel like there's nothing that I will ever do that is ever going to define me as much as this thing that happened to me that I had nothing to do with. And I have a partner and I have a family and I have friends who continually remind me that I am a valuable person in my own right, and I have a valuable perspective. And I am not just what other people define me as. I get to be an author of my own life. And I should be the most important author of my own life. And I'm acting as if that is the truth and hoping that eventually that reality will catch up to that.
Nora McInerny: Another thing that I noticed and admired is that you got married and you kept your name.
Amanda Knox: Yes. In fact, my husband was really tempted to take my name, but I think that would have upset his family a little bit.
Nora McInerny: You could have been Amanda Robinson.
Amanda Knox: I could have. But you know what? My name is baller. And there's nothing wrong with my name. And I could have changed my name back in the day when I first came home. And I very, very stubbornly took the stance of I didn't do anything wrong, and there's nothing wrong with my name. And so if anybody has a problem with it, that's their problem. It's not mine. So ...
Nora McInerny: Amanda Knox, thank you so much for being here with us. We really appreciate it.
Amanda Knox: Thank you for having me. It’s been great.
I’m Nora McInerny, and this is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” Our production team is me, Nora McInerny, Marcel Malekebu, Beth Pearlman, Jordan Turgeon, Jeyca Maldonado-Medina and Megan Palmer. We are a production of American Public Media / APM Studios — not sure which one I'm supposed to be saying. And god forbid I ask a question.
Episodes of Amanda's podcast, which is called “Labyrinths,” in our show notes. I’m Nora McInerny. I’ve been thinking ... yeah, I did write some books. I don’t know if anybody cares but … you can find my books wherever you buy books. What a sell. What a sell. I’ve written many books. Written many funny sad books about sad things. Their titles are, “It’s Okay to Laugh, Crying Is Cool Too,” “No Happy Endings,” “The Hot Young Widows Club,” and the novel “Bad Moms.” Just putting that out there. And that is it. That’s it for me. That’s it for me.