How to Write About Trauma

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh in the New York Times:

Sayrafiezadeh-blog427One summer afternoon, when I was 4 or 5 years old, I was raped by a next-door neighbor. If the act itself was gruesome, the aftermath was surprisingly uneventful, beginning with the fact that my mother, despite knowing what had transpired, did nothing. As for me, I did what everyone tries to do under similar circumstances: move on and be normal. With the exception of the occasional nightmare that visited me in the years that followed, I was convinced that there had been no lasting damage. How miraculous it was that I had emerged unscathed.

This could very well have been the end of the story if not for my freshman year in college, when I found myself being pursued, some might say stalked, by a male professor who had somehow determined, at least in his own mind, that I was gay. He had also determined, or so he said, that I was a good writer, or a great writer, hyperbole I happily accepted without question since I was in need of any and all approbation.

He gave me books, he gave me money, he gave me dinner. He also gave me letters, multipaged and pornographic, describing in no uncertain terms what we would do once I got over my sexual inhibitions. Sometimes I would hear him driving past my apartment building in his silver sports car with its distinctive downshift. Sometimes I imagined I heard him driving past. Sometimes I would wake up to find that a letter had been placed in my mailbox at some point during the night.

I was not gay and I told him so.

More here.