Author Junot Diaz's Legacy Just Got More Complicated

Several women have accused the Pulitzer Prize winner of sexual misconduct, verbal abuse
By Janet Cromley,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2018 4:18 PM CDT
Dominican-American writer Junot Diaz attends a gathering of about 150 activists and community members in Miami on Wednesday, June 24, 2015.   (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

(Newser) – Junot Diaz is the latest high-profile figure to be accused of abusive behavior by women. Several have come forward detailing disturbing encounters with the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, as reported in the Cut. What We Lose author Zinzi Clemmons tweets that Diaz forcibly cornered and kissed her at a workshop. National Book Award finalist Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties, described an endless, mortifying harangue at a Q&A event. Author Monica Byrne said on Facebook that Díaz yelled directly in her face during a 2014 social event. “I’ve never experienced such virulent misogyny in my adult life,” she wrote. In response to the allegations, the 49-year-old Diaz says in a statement to the New York Times that "I take responsibility for my past."

Diaz has a complicated history with women, some of which is chronicled in his books. In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, he appears as Yunior, a self-aware womanizer grappling with a legacy of machismo rooted in Dominican culture. He recently wrote a gut-wrenching account in the New Yorker of his rape at age 8 and described in detail how those events fed cycles of suicidal depression, rage, and serial cheating as an adult. In his statement to the Times, Diaz says his desire to take responsibility "is the reason I made the decision to tell the truth of my rape and its damaging aftermath," adding that "we must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries." Byrne, however, thinks the essay was a calculated ploy by him to get out ahead of these allegations.

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