April 11, 2018
Junot Díaz has written his most powerful piece to date: A personal essay that recounts his experience as a survivor of sexual violence. Published in the New Yorker magazine, where some of his stories appeared in the past, this is a painful personal piece that leaves no detail to the imagination. This is real.
When he was 8, an adult raped Junot. And that’s when his rollercoaster began:
That shit cracked the planet of me in half, threw me completely out of orbit, into the lightless regions of space where life is not possible. I can say, truly, que casi me destruyó. Not only the rapes but all the sequelae: the agony, the bitterness, the self-recrimination, the asco, the desperate need to keep it hidden and silent. It fucked up my childhood. It fucked up my adolescence. It fucked up my whole life. More than being Dominican, more than being an immigrant, more, even, than being of African descent, my rape defined me. I spent more energy running from it than I did living.
For the longest, Junot dealt with bouts of depression due to the traumatic shock of being sexually assaulted. At one point, he separated the writer and the individual by hiding his pain. He hid himself. For someone who preferred hiding, he did it so well considering the fact that he is so visible: talking to people about suffering and hope as well as interacting with readers.
It takes courage—and emotional healing over time— to speak out, and finally be able to share with the world the story of survival that can give victims of sexual abuse some hope:
After long struggle and many setbacks, my therapist slowly got me to put aside my mask. Not forever, but long enough for me to breathe, to live.
With this harrowing personal essay Junot is talking about larger issues that affect people today in a world where human dignity has not been fully achieved. His words pose the following question: how do we break with the past and the wall of silence that keeps pain confined in?
The essay comes at a time when the Pulitzer-award author is currently on a book tour to promote Islandborn, his first children’s book illustrated by Leo Espinosa.
Read the full essay here.
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