Update: While Junot Diaz hasn't responded directly to the allegations made against him, he did provide a statement to The New York Times via his literary agent, Nicole Aragi.
"I take responsibility for my past," it reads. "That is the reason I made the decision to tell the truth of my rape and its damaging aftermath. This conversation is important and must continue. I am listening to and learning from women’s stories in this essential and overdue cultural movement. We must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries."
Original story published below at 12:00 p.m.
Following the publication of author Junot Diaz's viral essay for The New Yorker about his childhood sexual assault and subsequent relationship issues, a number of women in the literary world have come forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse.
"I think about you, X—," Diaz wrote in the April essay. "I think about that woman from the Brattle. I think about silence; I think about shame, I think about loneliness. I think about the hurt I caused. "
That hurt, according to Zinzi Clemmons, Carmen Maria Machado, and Monica Byrne, ranged from heated arguments to public verbal attacks to cornering a woman and forcibly kissing her.
"As a grad student, I invited Junot Diaz to speak to a workshop on issues of representation in literature," Clemmons, author of What We Lose, wrote on Twitter Thursday night, kicking off the initial accusations. "I was an unknown wide-eyed 26 yo, and he used it as an opportunity to corner and forcibly kiss me. I'm far from the only one he's done this 2, I refuse to be silent anymore...I told several people this story at the time, I have emails he sent me afterward (*barf*). This happened and I have receipts."
As a grad student, I invited Junot Diaz to speak to a workshop on issues of representation in literature. I was an unknown wide-eyed 26 yo, and he used it as an opportunity to corner and forcibly kiss me. I'm far from the only one he's done this 2, I refuse to be silent anymore.— zinziclemmons (@zinziclemmons) May 4, 2018
Writer Bina Shah suggested that perhaps his New Yorker story was an attempt to get ahead of the accusations, which it appears we're only seeing the beginning of.
"Do you think he was trying to pre-empt this from coming out with the essay he wrote in the New Yorker about being raped as a child?" she asked. "Like Kevin Spacey's 'I'm gay' diversion?"
Byrne certainly thinks so. In a Facebook post, the The Girl in the Road author recounted a dinner party where she says Diaz shouted at her about rape.
"The table struck up a light conversation about the significance of statistics in publishing. I made a point emphasizing how personal narrative is important in empowering the marginalized," she wrote. "He said (and this is my memory, so I’m not including quotation marks), Well, I don’t know if you know how statistics work, but that’s like saying, Oh, I haven’t been RAPED, so RAPE must not exist."
The conversation got worse from there, with Byrne saying Diaz "made a point of talking over me, cutting me off, ignoring me to talk to the other famous (male) writer at the table."
Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties, had a similarly aggressive verbal encounter, that culminated in Diaz allegedly going "off" on her for 20 minutes during a Q&A for This Is How You Lose Her. Machado asked about his character's unhealthy relationship with women, prompting this:
"He asked me to back up my claim with evidence. I cited several passages from the book in front of me. He raised his voice, paced, implied I was a prude who didn't know how to read or draw reasonable conclusions from text," and later, "Every time he asked me a question, I answered it, and he became freshly enraged when I refused to capitulate. This went on and on and on and on until he finally ran out of steam.."
During his tour for THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER, Junot Díaz did a Q&A at the grad program I'd just graduated from. When I made the mistake of asking him a question about his protagonist's unhealthy, pathological relationship with women, he went off for me for twenty minutes. https://t.co/7wuQOarBIJ— Carmen Maria Machado (@carmenmmachado) May 4, 2018
Later in the Twitter thread, Machado says she's "heard easily a dozen stories about fucked-up sexual misconduct on his part and felt weirdly lucky that all ('all') I got was a blast of misogynist rage and public humiliation."
Refinery29 has reached out to Diaz, Clemmons, Machado, and Byrne for comment.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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