A "powerful and scary and important and true" memoir of a young woman's struggle to regain her sense of self after trauma, and the efforts by a powerful New England boarding school to silence her—at any cost (Sally Mann, author of Hold Still).
Shortlisted for the 2022 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing
When Notes on a Silencing hit bookstores in the summer of 2020, even amidst a global pandemic, it sent shockwaves through the country. Not only did this intimate investigative memoir usher in a media storm of coverage, but it also prompted the elite St. Paul's School to issue a formal apology to the author, Lacy Crawford, for its handling of her report of sexual assault by two fellow students nearly thirty years ago.
In this searing book, Crawford tells the story of coming forward during the state investigation of the elite New England prep school decades after her assault, only to find for the first time evidence that corroborated her memories. Here were depictions of the naïve, hardworking girl she’d been, as well as astonishing proof of an institutional silencing. The slander, innuendo, and lack of adult concern that Crawford had experienced as a student hadn't been imagined; they were the actions of a school that prized its reputation above anything, even a child.
This revelation launched Crawford on an extraordinary inquiry deep into gender, privilege, and power, and the ways shame and guilt are used to silence victims. Insightful, arresting, and beautifully written, Notes on a Silencing wrestles with an essential question for our time: what telling of a survivor's story will finally force a remedy?
“Erudite and devastating… Crawford's writing is astonishing… Notes on a Silencing is a purposefully named, brutal and brilliant retort to the asinine question of 'Why now?'… The story is crafted with the precision of a thriller, with revelations that sent me reeling…” —Jessica Knoll, New York Times
A Best Book of the Year: Time, NPR, People, Real Simple, Marie Claire, The Lineup, LitHub, Library Journal, BookPage, and Shelf Awareness
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
One of People Magazine’s 10 Best Books of the Year
Semifinalist for a Goodreads Choice Award
In this devastating memoir, Crawford (Early Decision) writes about being raped at age 15 by two 18-year-old male students at her elite New Hampshire boarding school and the attempt by school officials to cover it up. In 1990, Crawford was lured after curfew to a dorm room at St. Paul's School, where two students took turns forcing their penises into her mouth. (She contracted herpes as a result.) With measured prose, Crawford talks about the physical and emotional trauma she suffered, and about getting harassed by her assailants' friends in the days after the attack. When she finally told her mother what happened months later, school officials tried to shame and silence her: one administrator accused her of being promiscuous, and her college prospects were threatened. Crawford carefully exposes the rotten underbelly of the school, whose administrators never reported her assault to police and who, she learned after the school was investigated in 2018, had been orchestrating cover-ups of sexual violence and abuse for decades. "The slur slut carries within it, Trojan-horse style, silence as its true intent," she writes, eventually realizing that "the opposite of slut is not virtue but voice." Crawford's is a stirring memoir of sexual assault and its aftermath.
Hard to read
Vocabulary too high. Loved the story. I was a former weekly newspaper publisher. Most books and newspapers our written at a six grade level.