Have you ever been close to death? Yes. When I was a toddler my father stuffed my head in the toilet after he took a shit, then he raped me, and smothered me with a pillow because I fought him. He put the pillow over my head, and at some point I could no longer breathe. When I stopped struggling and let go of the terror of not being able to breathe, I felt at peace.

There were some people up and around a corner (in my mind?) who said they were very happy to see me. I was happy to see them too. I felt so much joy, more joy that I had ever felt. They were familiar to me.

As soon as I was about to see who they were Dad pulled the pillow off my head. Probably because I had stopped moving. He wasn’t sure if he had killed me. I think he had mixed feelings about it. He wanted to kill me, but wasn’t sure how he could explain to the police. It was disappointing. I wanted to be back with those good people who liked and loved me.

Do you know the circumstances of your birth?

These questions came from an interview with Anna Deavere Smith by Bill Moyers.