For a few years, Junot Díaz has thought about an interaction at one of his book signings in Amherst. A reader approached Junot and asked him if he’d been the victim of sexual abuse. The topic is one that Díaz alludes to in his body of work, but when the question came, he was taken by surprise. He couldn’t bring himself to answer her question sincerely, and he remembers every detail about how he disappointed this person. In a new heart-wrenching essay in The New Yorker titled “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma,” Díaz for the first time publicly reveals that someone he trusted raped him when he was 8.
Addressing the essay to the person, who he calls X, he writes, “I know this is years too late, but I’m sorry I didn’t answer you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the truth. I’m sorry for you, and I’m sorry for me. We both could have used that truth, I’m thinking. It could have saved me (and maybe you) from so much. But I was afraid. I’m still afraid – my fear like continents and the ocean between – but I’m going to speak anyway, because, as Audre Lorde has taught us, my silence will not protect me.”
In the essay, he describes how he struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts on his own. Growing up, he hadn’t told anyone about his rape, and it affected every aspect of his life. It’s a tough read as Díaz chronicles some of his most painful memories. But it sheds a light on his story. Read it here.