Crawford (Hold Still) explores the effects of sexual assault with visceral force and honesty. After her private boarding school came under investigation for sexual assaults on campus, she came forward with her experience, which occurred decades earlier. Crawford works through complex theoretical issues related to gender, class, and privilege as they intersect with trauma, shame, and silencing. This provides a kind of bridge between issues raised by the #metoo movement and the nuances of sexual assault case investigations with its powerful emphasis on what Crawford describes as the "near impossibility of telling what happened in a way that discharges its power." While the memoir itself is beautifully written, the book also provides a very real corrective to the oversimplification we often make when we think that telling a story, bringing a case to trial, or "winning" in some public way is enough to restore what has been taken from a survivor of sexual assault. VERDICT This brave, brilliant memoir reveals the multifaceted effects of trauma on a survivor's life, the damage done by some of the ways in which disclosures happen, and the power of finding a voice on one's own terms, if and when one feels supported, sustained, and able to speak.—Emily Bowles, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison
A novelist’s account of how she struggled to come to terms with a traumatic sexual assault that the boarding school she attended actively tried to cover up.
Crawford entered the prestigious St. Paul’s School when she was 14. The daughter of socially ambitious upper-middle-class parents who believed in “the value of education,” she immediately felt out of place among her privileged, preternaturally sophisticated classmates. On the first day of school, she discovered that many of her age-mates already had older lovers whom they visited without their parents’ knowledge. Other aspects of St. Paul’s—racism, social hierarchies, and faculty sexual harassment of female students—also disturbed the author, who was diagnosed with clinical depression, but left her parents “unmoved.” The year after she started, Crawford was forced to perform oral sex on two popular senior athletes who threatened to report her for breaking school curfew. She developed a bleeding sore throat the school infirmary diagnosed as stemming from canker sores. Crawford later learned that the school doctor had actually noted she suffered from herpetic lesions. Branded overnight as a “whore” by fellow students, the author soon found herself excluded from female peer groups and scornfully pursued for sex by male students. When her parents became involved, school administrators told them that the “encounter…had been consensual,” implied that Crawford already had herpes, and threatened to destroy her Ivy League future if she did not remain silent. Even after detectives found proof of the school’s wrongdoing more than 20 years later, Crawford’s case was dropped because St. Paul’s influence extended deep into New Hampshire state government. 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.
A powerful, topical, and incisive memoir.
Erudite and devastating… 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… Crawford’s writing is astonishing.”Jessica Knoll, New York Times
“A riveting, damning exploration of how a single moment can reshape an entire life… [and] a haunting exploration of the systematic ways assault victims are ignored… Crawford’s revelations about the insidious and systematic ways stories of assault are buried left me shaken, moved, angry. By the end, we all understand how rarely women are granted any kind of justice… Crawford does what the best memoirists do: She reaches beyond a single story… in its relentless exploration of power and hubris, Notes on a Silencing is a story that reminds us (because we apparently need reminding again and again) that women are still impotent against institutions and the men who run them… One cannot help but conjure the poised, careful testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and the sputtering, self-righteous rage of Brett M. Kavanaugh… a stunning, audacious attempt to reassert power over her own story.”Rachel Louise Snyder, Washington Post
“The rigor and elegance of Crawford’s sentences, even while writing about such painful things, lifts this memoir into literary heights… Crawford lays bare the impact of violence on identity. She navigates her trauma surgically by trying to establish the parameters of its lexicon… with the help of therapy, detectives, records she thought lost to time, and a new case brought to the fore, Crawford is forcing the unchecked power of an elite institution to answer for their violations and the victims they shoved into silent hallways of despair.”Kerri Arsenault, Boston Globe
"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
“In this devastating account, Crawford presents evidence of how the elite school conspired to silence her. Highly personal yet universal, her brilliant, incendiary memoir lays bare truths about rape culture, misogyny and the rot in America’s most privileged places.”Kim Hubbard, People (Book of the Week)
“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
“Maddening and timely, this memoir reveals the cost to victimsand society at largewhen powerful institutions protect their reputations, not their pupils.”Kristyn Kusek Lewis, Real Simple
“An astonishing work… so devastating and majestically written… [it] just blew me away.”Kevin Kwan, New York Times bestselling author of the Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy
“Beautifully written… Crawford discovers evidence of institutional silencing and shadowy powers trying to cover up her own case to this day.”Sarah Kollmorgen, HuffPost
“Crawford uses her storytelling skill to illuminate the myriad ways female students were taught that their desires and bodies were less valuable thaneven subject tothose 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)
“Crawford plums her own life in this story of her time at the St. Paul's boarding school, where she was the survivor of a long-ignored sexual assault. When news of other, similar incidents starts to come out, Crawford is compelled to revisit her own experience and frankly grapple with the way violence, truth, and guilt are handled in our country's most exclusive institutions.”Adam Rathe and Liz Cantrell, Town and Country
"A shocking, anguished, beautifully written account of Crawford's sexual assault at the elite St. Paul's School in the days before #Me Tooand her belated understanding, after attacks at the school decades later, of just how badly the adults had failed her."People
"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)
“Crawford recounts the shocking documented facts in her deeply affecting memoir, its extraordinary power resides in her artful, original, and evocative telling of the story and the cover-up.”National Book Review
"A riveting story of and for our time."Emily Temple, Lit Hub Most Anticipated Books of 2020
“Propulsive… In a precise, lucid account, the author examines herself and the forces outside her that converged to suppress her voice after a sexual assault at a prestigious school… The facts carry readers along as they would in a crime novel, with clinical details that force observers to imagine the motives and emotions of the perpetrators and victim.”Jennifer M. Brown, Shelf Awareness (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 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 unspokenand often criminaldouble standards that adhere in elite spaces, Crawford's courageous book is a bracing reminder of the dangers inherent in unchecked patriarchal power."Kirkus Reviews
"Devastating... A stirring memoir of sexual assault and its aftermath."Publishers Weekly