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 Now with a New Afterword 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 na ve, 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
- ISBN-13: 9780316491556
- ISBN-10: 0316491551
- Publisher: Little Brown and Company
- Publish Date: July 2020
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.9 x 1.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.35 pounds
- Page Count: 400
Notes on a Silencing
One night in October 1990, a young Lacy Crawford took a phone call at her dorm, surprised to hear an older boy pleading for her to come help him. Crawford was mystified but convinced there must be a reason, so she slipped across her boarding school campus and met the boy at his dorm window. When she climbed inside, she was confronted by the boy and his roommate, both stripped down to their underwear. That night would haunt her for decades to come.
In Notes on a Silencing, Crawford emphasizes that the sexual assault she experienced was not unusual. “It’s so simple, what happened at St. Paul’s. It happens all the time,” she writes. “First, they refused to believe me. Then they shamed me. Then they silenced me.” She describes St. Paul’s as a lauded, sometimes lonely place where privileged teens were obsessed with their academic futures. (The author, when faced with the possibility of not returning for her senior year, pleaded with her parents: But what about Princeton?)
Crawford, a novelist, uses her storytelling skill to illuminate the myriad ways female students were taught that their desires and bodies were less valuable than—even subject to—those of their male peers. She’d had other sexual experiences as a teenager, a fact her teachers later used against her. When she began to experience physical ailments because of her assault, Crawford was certain it was a result of “what she had done.” She was so wrecked by the experience that she saw herself, not the boys, as the one to blame.
Crawford’s detailed account of her assault and its aftermath relies on an indelible memory as well as careful research. Medical reports and other documentation help her piece together the school’s reaction when she revisits it decades later, after other victims began holding the school accountable.
Notes on a Silencing is a ghastly account, beautifully told, of a teenage girl learning that people in power often value reputation above all else.