Junot Díaz, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2007 novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, has been accused of sexual harassment and bullying in the wake of the Me Too scandal.
Female authors including Zinzi Clemmons, Carmen Maria Machado and Monica Byrne made the accusations Friday morning on Twitter, accusing the author of misconduct including “bullying and misogyny.”
In a tweet, Clemmons (What We Lose) said that when she was a graduate student, she invited Diaz, 49, to speak to a workshop. She described herself as a “wide-eyed 26-year-old” and wrote that Díaz used it as an opportunity “to corner and forcibly kiss me.”
In response to Clemmons’ tweet, Machado (Her Body and Other Parties) tweeted that Díaz “went off on me for twenty minutes” when she questioned him during a Q&A about his protagonist’s “unhealthy, pathological relationship with women” during a graduate school Q&A about his book This Is How You Lose Her.
Byrne (The Girl in the Road) shared a story on Twitter of sitting next to Díaz at a dinner before her first novel was published and disagreeing with him on a “minor point.”
“He shouted the word ‘rape’ in my face to prove his. It was completely bizarre, disproportionate, and violent,” she wrote.
The accusations follow a recent piece in The New Yorker, in which Díaz recounted his own history of sexual abuse and suicidal tendencies as a child. He said he was raped and kept it a secret.
“Of course, I never got any kind of help, any kind of therapy. Like I said, I never told anyone,” Díaz wrote.
For Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay, the Díaz situation has served as a reminder that "explanations do not excuse unacceptable behavior."
The acclaimed Oscar Wao, the story of an overweight Dominican-American “nerd” who dreams of being the next J.R.R. Tolkien, drew attention in part for its dazzlingly inventive language. The book is on the top 100 list of America’s best-loved books for the upcoming PBS series, The Great American Read. The series will invite viewers to vote on their favorite novel.
The Díaz controversy raises a frequently asked question since the Me Too movement began: When and how do you separate accused artists from their work?
Gay wrote, "I don't know how fans of (Díaz's) work proceed from here. I do know we need to have a more vigorous conversation that simply saying, 'Junot Diaz is canceled,' because that does not cancel misogyny or how the literary community protects powerful men at the expense of women."
Díaz, who also writes children’s books (his illustrated kids’ book Islandborn was published in March), is the latest author to be accused of sexual misconduct or misogyny, including James Dashner (The Maze Runner), Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why) and Sherman Alexie (The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven).
Riverhead, Díaz’s publisher, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and Diaz had no response on Twitter.