Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Díaz has been an outspoken force against injustice, particularly in the Trump era. But after troubling new allegations surfaced about the Dominican scribe, many are wondering how the #MeToo movement will shake up the publishing world.
Over the weekend, acclaimed writer Zinzi Clemmons broke her silence about a troubling encounter she said had with Díaz, and she did it directly to his face at Sydney Writers’ Festival.
According to the New York Times, Clemmons “stood up. Without identifying herself by name, she asked Mr. Díaz about a recent essay he had published in The New Yorker detailing the sexual assault he experienced as an 8-year-old boy. She then asked why he had treated her the way he had six years prior, when she was a graduate student at Columbia.”
Clemmons then took to Twitter to speak out.
“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,” she wrote. “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,” she added. “This happened and I have receipts.”
After Clemmons came forward, two other women shared their experiences with Díaz. Though neither one claimed he sexually harassed them, they did recount incidents where he was verbally aggressive.
Writer and professor Carmen Maria Machado said Díaz “went off for me for twenty minutes” after she asked about “his protagonist’s unhealthy, pathological relationship with women.” And author Monica Byrne recounted a similar experience, sayingDíaz was “completely bizarre, disproportionate, and violent” when she disagreed with him at dinner.
After canceling his remaining appearances at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, Díaz responded to the allegations through his agent.
“I take responsibility for my past,” the statement, given to The New York Times, read. “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.”
Clemmons dismissed Díaz’s apology, arguing “the words just rearrange into a soup of unintelligibility.” She also said there more tales of Díaz’s bad behavior out there and she’s encouraging other women to come forward.
“I know for a fact that what happened to me is not the worst of it. I know this bc (sic) I’ve talked to those he’s done worse to. They are traumatized and terrified. And your focus on him isn’t helping them come forward, bc that is what needs to happen,” Clemmons said.
I shared my story so that other women would feel more comfortable,” she added. “Please come forward. We need you. We will protect you. Help us protect other women.”