A "powerful and scary and important and true" memoir (Sally Mann, Carnegie Medal-winning author of Hold Still) 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.
When the elite St. Paul's School came under state investigation after extensive reports of sexual abuse on campus, Lacy Crawford thought she'd put behind her the assault she'd suffered decades before, when she was fifteen. Still, when detectives asked for victims to come forward, she sent a note.
With her criminal case file reopened, she saw for the first time evidence that corroborated her memories. Here were depictions of the naïve, hardworking girl she'd been, a chorister and debater, the daughter of a priest; of the two senior athletes who assaulted her and were allowed to graduate with awards; and of the faculty, doctors, and priests who had known about Crawford's assault and gone to great lengths to bury it.
Now a wife, mother, and writer living on the other side of the country, Crawford learned that police had uncovered astonishing proof of an institutional silencing years before, and that unnamed powers were still trying to block her case. The slander, innuendo, and lack of adult concern that Crawford had experienced as a student hadn't been the imagined effects of trauma, after all: these were the actions of a school that prized its reputation above anything, even a child.
This revelation launched Crawford on an extraordinary inquiry into the ways gender, privilege, and power shaped her experience as a girl at the gates of America's elite. Her investigation looks beyond the sprawling playing fields and soaring chapel towers of crucibles of power like St. Paul's, whose reckoning is still to come. And it runs deep into the channels of shame and guilt, witness and silencing, that dictate who can speak and who is heard in American society.
An insightful, mature, beautifully written memoir, Notes on a Silencing is an arresting coming-of-age story that wrestles with an essential question for our time: what telling of a survivor's story will finally force a remedy?
About the Author
Lacy Crawford is the author of the novel Early Decision. She lives in Southern California with her family.
"Beautifully done... Notes on a Silencing is powerful and scary and important and true. Hats off to Lacy Crawford for telling this harrowing story. It will surely be an eye-opener for a lot of people, but not for me or millions of other women."—Sally Mann, author of Hold Still
“Crawford writes with clarity and rueful authority… a strong, clear, unimpeachable voice… Notes on a Silencing is as much a work of meticulous investigative journalism as it is a memoir.”
—Jenny Shank, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"A shocking, anguished, beautifully written account of Crawford's sexual assault at the elite St. Paul's School in the days before #Me Too---and her belated understanding, after attacks at the school decades later, of just how badly the adults had failed her."
“Crawford 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… Crawford’s detailed account of her assault and its aftermath relies on an indelible memory as well as careful research… 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.”
—Carla Jean Whitley, BookPage (starred review)
"So beautiful it hurts to read... Assaulted by schoolmates, and then betrayed and silenced by her school and mine, Lacy Crawford has found courage to turn pain into searing voice in this beautiful memoir... For St. Paul's School, Notes on a Silencing could begin Truth and Reconciliation, or a chance to be delivered, as the school prayers ask: 'From the cowardice that dare not face new truths, from the lazy contentment with half-truths, and from the arrogance of thinking we know all truths.'"—Lorene Cary, author of Black Ice and If Sons, Then Heirs
"A studied, vulnerable, and maddening account... Crawford melds her personae as a teenage girl, a survivor, and a skilled narrator... Crawford's meditation on the effects of silence, shame, and belief, and the antidotes she had to invent for herself, will add to evolving discussions of sexual assault and power."
—Annie Bostrom, Booklist (starred review)
"A riveting story of and for our time."
—Emily Temple, Lit Hub Most Anticipated Books of 2020
"A harrowing, powerful memoir about sexual assault, trauma, and what happens when institutional power is deployed as a weapon against the vulnerable... Crawford's bravery in recounting her own experience speaks to how powerful it is to have these stories told, to show that no one is alone."
—Kristin Iversen, Refinery29
"A powerful, topical, and incisive memoir... Trenchant in its observations about the unspoken---and often criminal---double standards that adhere in elite spaces, Crawford's courageous book is a bracing reminder of the dangers inherent in unchecked patriarchal power."
"Devastating... A stirring memoir of sexual assault and its aftermath."