The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is and always will be in my top five books of all time. It became my best friend while my best friend laid in a coma in a hospital bed 3,000 miles away. I unapologetically cried on the subway as I consumed every word. When I neared the end, I took a break, because I couldn't bear the thought of losing these words that seemed to be carrying me through each day. Then I did. And I cried some more, like I had lost a dear friend. Weeks later my best friend would die and the ocean of tears would come. In my grief I read every word of Junot Díaz's that I could find. Book. Essay. Anything that would fill that void. I wanted a hundred more Oscar Wao's to dive into and couldn't wrap my head around why more didn't exist.
Junot Díaz gave himself completely to the world, baring the most gruesome trauma of his life and its aftermath that gave birth to the depression that inhibits his writing to this day. His words speak to the core of anyone who has survived childhood sexual assault and abuse. And will undoubtedly save someone. At least one person who is suffering behind a mask will take comfort in knowing that they are not alone.
We owe a debt to Junot Díaz. Tarana Burke. All the women and men of the #metoo movement who are sharing their truths so that the world can be a safer place for our sons and daughters. Thank you.
Here's an excerpt from his essay "The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma:"
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. 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. I was confused about why I didn’t fight, why I had an erection while I was being raped, what I did to deserve it. And always I was afraid—afraid that the rape had “ruined” me; afraid that I would be “found out”; afraid afraid afraid. “Real” Dominican men, after all, aren’t raped. And if I wasn’t a “real” Dominican man I wasn’t anything. The rape excluded me from manhood, from love, from everything.
The kid before—hard to remember. Trauma is a time traveller, an ouroboros that reaches back and devours everything that came before. Only fragments remain. I remember loving codes and Encyclopedia Brown and pastelones and walking long distances in an effort to learn what lay beyond my N.J. neighborhood. At night I had the most vivid dreams, often about “Star Wars” and about my life back in the Dominican Republic, in Azua, my very own Tatooine. Was just getting to know this new English-speaking me, was just becoming his friend—and then he was gone.