Junot Díaz Says ‘Me Too’ in Searing Personal Essay for ‘The New Yorker’

This article appears on paperbackparis.com:

Yesterday morning, The New Yorker published an essay penned by critically-acclaimed author Junot Díaz. This personal history, titled “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma,” details Díaz’s being raped at the age of 8-years-old and how that horrific event almost destroyed his life.

He addresses the piece to an individual referred to as “X” — someone who approached the author during a book signing and asked if the sexual abuse alluded to in his books came from personal experience. Terrified of broaching the darkness of his past that had yet to escape him, Díaz avoided giving an answer and watched as X drifted away, “shoulders hunched.”

Of the harrowing encounter, Díaz writes:

“That violación. Not enough pages in the world to describe what it did to me. The whole planet could be my inkstand and it still wouldn’t be enough. 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.”

He outlines a childhood marred by bouts of depression, mood swings, emotional isolation, suicidal ideation, and the overbearing weight of shame. The shattering of his identity as a Dominican man.

Bravery isn’t a strong enough word for what is expressed in this essay — in reaching out to that individual fan who, like many of us, identifies with the boundless dimensions of the author’s work — Díaz offered readers a vulnerability in the beautiful and humane medium of language, giving hope to people who continue to suffer from such traumas.

Junot Diaz Legacy of Childhood Trauma New Yorker: Op-Ed
Courtesy of Junot Díaz for The New Yorker

It is an offering — it is a glimpse into the recovery process of someone who survived in darkness for so long.

The essay also illuminates the complex web of Díaz’s work, from his short stories in Drown and This is How You Lose Her, to his epic novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and his recently-published children’s book, Islandborn. Though it was the latter that profoundly influenced Díaz’s decision to finally recall his rape in such an open platform. In doing so, the age-old fear of being “found out” returned to him during a time when he was being questioned about his own childhood history more than ever before.

“Toni Morrison wrote, ‘Anything dead coming back to life hurts,’” writesDíaz. “In Spanish we say that when a child is born it is given the light. And that’s what it feels like to say the words, X⁠—. Like I’m being given a second chance at the light.”

Díaz’s openness is a beacon for those who no longer believe healing is possible. The process might seem never-ending, but examining and channeling the pain into words–emboldening the universe as we speak — is the first step.

You can read Junot Díaz’s “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma” in full at The New Yorker.

A snippet from Paperback Paris…

Hi all–

Here’s a snippet from a short list the contributors over at paperbackparis.com put together to highlight the best books they read in February. I was completely gutted and transformed by Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name, so I’m making my obsession known far and wide:

Best Books We Read February 2018: Call Me by Your Name, Andre Aciman

Leah Rodriguez’s February 2018 Pick: Call Me by Your Name, André Aciman

“It escapes me now, how and when I came across André Aciman‘s work, but I remember placing his entire bibliography on my TBR. Call Me By Your Name has been on my radar for some time, I just never got around to it…Until the movie was released to wide critical praise, and I knew I needed to read it as soon as possible. I am devoted to the concept of reading an adaptation’s source material before viewing said adaptation (which annoys all my Game of Thronesobsessed friends). I was especially happy I read this particular novel first. I don’t know how James Ivory managed to capture Elio Perlman’s internal anguish and recursive thinking over Oliver — a young scholar spending his summer with the Perlman family at their home in northern Italy. Elio — a precociously intelligent seventeen-year-old — struggles to understand the dynamic that unfolds between him and Oliver. The obsession becomes all-consuming.

I dove into this novel as a reprieve from another book with heavy thematic elements. The atmosphere of Call Me By Your Name, which is all sun, heat, water, and northern Italian landscapes, pairs perfectly with the nascent blossoming of Elio and Oliver’s relationship. It is completely immersive and gorgeous.”

Winter reading and other news

books
Stock photo from Pexels

Dear readers,

My posts on this account have been few and far between lately, and most of that is due to the plague that struck my house a few weeks ago. It really wasn’t that bad, but instead of reading, I spent most of my time watching The Big Fat Quiz of Everything on YouTube. Who says I don’t have life?

Anyway, the few reviews I have posted lately are ones that appear on paperbackparis.com, which is run by a colleague of mine. Please, please, please check it out if you have the time. There’s some really good stuff on there, including book news, TBRs from our staff writers, and listicles that we curate for you good people.

These days, I’m getting back in the swing of things. I’m really trying to get on top of my reading list, but I know The Romanovs by Simon Sebag-Montefiore is going to take me ages. It’s coming up next after I finish Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth and The Guineveres by Sarah Domet.

Unfortunately, I’m getting sidetracked again these days because I’m in the process of interviewing for a new job, which sucks the energy out of me. Seriously, the anxiety I have about it is enough to narcotize the most ambitious person.

BUT, don’t fret! You will be hearing a lot more from me in the coming weeks because I have a pile of NetGalley proofs to dig into as well. I have a heap of great stuff in there, like Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, and The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian.

And, I don’t know what it is, but I’ve fallen back into my YA craze from a few months ago. I have tons of Maureen Johnson, Jenny Han, and Jennifer Niven coming up, so stay tuned!