NOTE: This interview contains discussions about sexual assault.
The annual arrival of houseguests was a horrifying event for Grace Talusan, who, as a child, was regularly assaulted by one of the visitors. Her memoir “The Body Papers” takes readers into the dark times of her youth, only some of which she can remember, as well as loving times she shared with her parents and niblings.
Talusan is open and authentic in relating the effects of the assault on her mental and physical health. She also draws parallels to everyday occurrences – how fear shows up in crossing busy streets and how making yogurt becomes an opportunity to nurture.
As a speaker and teacher at the university level, Talusan is mindful of the impact we have on each other. She is a prominent voice for Asian and Pacific Island communities and cancer prevention.
On Her Reasons for Waiting to Publish Her Story
“One is the people involved. A certain number of people died, and I think that made room for me to feel more comfortable publishing this story, talking about it more publicly. Also, I needed to do a lot of work and have my own – I don’t want to say the word healing, but I did do a lot of therapy, and a lot of growing and maturing, and coming to terms and attending to myself. I knew that I wanted to speak about it someday, and I wanted to do it at a time when I felt strong.”
On Telling Her Family About the Assault
“I ended the abuse, or I did something to make it stop, and it took me probably another year until I was able to tell my parents. Even though I thought about it all the time, and I wanted to tell them, I wasn’t able to tell them. I just couldn’t get the guts up to say it. When I did tell them, they immediately acted. It was late at night. They called the relative where my grandfather was currently staying. They called her right away and told her. I wasn’t privy to all the details of what happened, but I know that everybody in the family – my parents made sure that everybody knew about it, and there were consequences. My extended family wasn’t really able to hear it at the time, and we were estranged for years.”
On How Her Parents Have Rallied In Her Defense
“I’m really proud that my parents chose me. They told me that all the time. They said, ‘We’re going to stand by you.’ They were sorry about what had happened. They didn’t know. People will still ask, ‘How could they not know?’ You’ll see this repeated over and over in all kinds of situations. We get locked into a family dynamic. We are trying to survive, and we probably don’t see things. We have all kinds of defenses, but once it was directly brought to their attention, my parents acted. Even now, with the book coming out, there’s a way that they rallied and told me, ‘If you need us to protect you about this, we’re here.’ My mother travelled with me and went to almost every event. She still comes to my events, even though she’s seen dozens of them already. She wants me to know that she’s there for me.”