The work of caring for others is at the center of Tisdale’s writing, and it proves an endlessly complex and engaging subject; so much emotional labor, these essays remind us, is still hardly understood as work at all...The essays in Violation are mostly unaltered from their first publication. But each piece is followed by a short, sad-looking note in italics, explaining what Tisdale was thinking when she wrote it or what she wanted it to mean, as though to mark it as merely her tentative, inevitably imperfect version of events. Even the book’s title seems to imply that, collectively, these essays amount to an ethical breach, an uncalled-for advance onto other people’s territory. All of this runs counter to the writing itself, at once tender and assured.
[Tisdale] catches so many strings and braids so many tones into her mostly autobiographical pieces that you don’t want to diminish her by attempting description. Her dense but light-fingered language holds a dozen wiggling and contradictory ideas in suspension. To enumerate them one by one, as a critic must, feels like bloodying a face or trying to play a symphony on a chainsaw. It feels like plucking all the threads out of a tapestry so that you can no longer see the woven image. It feels—and of course, she’s set us up for this—like violation.
Violation is not the sort of book you find yourself urgently pressing on others, saying, 'You have to read this next.' It's not zeitgeist-y or cool. There is a frank, artless quality to Tisdale's work, an antidote to the clickbait-y, flashy, sexy, knowing, voyeuristic, position-taking trend of much popular nonfiction. Rather than forwarding one of Tisdale's essays, you find yourself on the verge of telling others, 'You should meet this friend of mine who writes.'