A woman grapples with abuse she suffered at an elite institution in a memoir poised to challenge privilege and power.
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Why I love it
Author, Ladysitting: My Year with Nana at the End of Her Century
As a black girl who grew to become a writer, the only way to parse the wounds and gifts of my St. Paul’s School education was to write a memoir, Black Ice. Otherwise, the school’s self-regard pulls the gaze from the self to the treasured narrative of white male achievement; eventually it blots other stories, especially those that contradict. Lacy Crawford has not let that happen.
From the beginning of her memoir, there’s no mystery about what happens. As a 15 year old, she is lured to the room of two seniors who assault and rape her. Then the book slows down to walk us through the institutional gaslighting and humiliation; her own emotional shutting down; and only years later, finding documents that confirm her assaulted memory.
Crawford has managed an adult life of love, marriage, and children. That’s the life work of reclamation. But a writer must reclaim the language, too. She has done so. Her prose is by turns elegant and subtle, ragged with embedded grief and rage—and then astonished by life’s stubborn beauty. When the incident comes round again at the book’s end, her adolescence will not be silenced. The corrupting power of power will not change until truth be told.
When the elite St. Paul's School recently 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 at St. Paul's decades before, when she was fifteen. Still, when detectives asked for victims to come forward, she sent a note.
Her criminal case file reopened, she saw for the first time evidence that corroborated her memories. Here were depictions of the naïve, hard-working 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 imagined as the 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.
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It’s weird saying that I “loved” a book whose story was so infuriating and saddening. However, Lacy giving voice to the injustice that she suffered was incredibly powerful. A heavy read, but worth it.
Its impossible to say I “loved” this book. Its infuriating, saddening, and absolutely horrifying. But what I love is Laceys’s power telling her story - something people had stolen from her for years.
ETA. Initially DNF, returned to book and LOVED it. First 200 pages lag before the story finally takes off. And it’s heartbreaking, real, outrageous, & it’ll piss you off. It’s suppose to. Recommend.
It feels weird to “love” this because the story is so sad and infuriating. But it was so well-written and honest and reflective, that I am giving it a “love.” Definitely a heavy read but worth it.
I don’t often read memoir, but I couldn’t be more grateful I made an exception. This book hurt so deeply, as it should. The horrors women and girls go through are so deeply ingrained, and this hit.
new york, NY
There has never been, for better or for worse, a character I’ve identified with more than Lacy. Reading this book was hard but there is healing in knowing that someone has felt the pain you have too
Brighton , MA
Crawford writes beautifully about her horrific, violent experiences. The erasure she experienced again and again at St. Pauls is staggering. Her power was taken away, until she took it back by writing
This is a MUST read. Crawford is humble & relatable & an extremely gifted writer. Bouncing between her narrative & questions about how we define rape & victims, she left me speachless with every page.
Fuquay Varina, NC
This book made me angry in a good way. The systemic silencing of abuse at institutions that are supposed to protect our youth must stop! I’m sorry the author had to go to these lengths to be heard.
This was a tough read. The subject matter is quite disturbing, but the writing is absolutely beautiful. Weaving many experiences and periods of time together, it’s a solid read that kept me hooked.
Alexandria , VA
The author writes beautifully about a very intense topic. It was hard to read at points only because we know how prevalent it is that victims of assault are not believed. Absolutely worth the read!!
Seriously, men are the worst people. This is a tale of a 15 year old girl who was raped and then silenced by rich white dudes. The problem is that she’s one of millions who will not see justice.
Cedar Falls, IA
Powerful. Moving. A voice and story that needs and deserves to be heard. A harrowing look at how once again society needs to do better in believing and supporting women after assault. A must read.
I will not soon forget this beautifully written, devastating and personal memoir. Her struggle to be heard, both as an adolescent and an adult confirms the inequalities of justice in our society.
A beautiful, thoughtful, heartbreaking account of trauma worsened by abuse of power. Crawford brings boarding school culture to life, examines terminology, and bears witness. Absolutely haunting.
Wow. I am in awe of Lacy’s writing style, the way her chosen words flowed. This book will stick with me for a long time. What a world we live in. I’m grateful to her for sharing her story.
Despite the misleading idea that this book is an investigation of a coverup, I enjoyed the real story just as much- a young woman being shamed and silenced and eventually finding her voice.
Reading this felt like observing a woman reclaiming her narrative and you were the privileged friend watching her do so. This book and its messages stayed with me each time I set it down.
Rochester , WA
This is so unflinchingly honest. Its depressing and enraging, yet also relatable and comforting. This is a must read. The prose is also beautiful. One of the best books Ive read this year.
This should be required reading. The writing is so sharp and her narrative is so resonant, I can’t imagine anyone not feeling something—ire, sadness, hope—while reading this book.