Junot Díaz has “asked to relinquish” his position as chairman of the Pulitzer Prize board (though he remains a board member) after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse. The board is “conducting an independent review of allegations of misconduct.” The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Díaz teaches creative writing, is looking “into concerns shared on social media regarding Professor Díaz…. Both accusers and the accused have rights and protections within the process we follow – and we strive to protect the privacy of all parties involved.”
Writer Zinzi Clemmons publicly accused Díaz on May 4, 2018, writing in a tweet, “As a grad student, I invited Junot Díaz 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, and I refuse to be silent anymore.”
Other women came forward with their own stories about Díaz, including author Carmen Maria Machado, who wrote about asking Díaz a question during a book tour about the treatment of women in his fiction and receiving an angry tirade in response: “What really struck me was how quickly his veneer of progressivism and geniality fell away; how easily he slid into bullying and misogyny when the endless waves of praise and adoration ceased for a second.” Writer Monica Byrne also recounted an experience of receiving verbal abuse from Díaz in a public Facebook post. After the initial wave of accusations, numerous other women came forward with stories of verbal abuse and inappropriate behavior from Díaz.
In a recent New Yorker essay, Diaz wrote about being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and how it colored his romantic and sexual relationships, acknowledging “the hurt I caused.” After these allegations, he released a statement via his literary agent on May 4, 2018:
I take responsibility for my past. 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.
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