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Junot Díaz Accused Of Sexual Misconduct And Verbal Abuse

Junot Díaz has been accused by several writers of sexual misconduct or verbal abuse. Here is a fie photo of him in 2013. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)
Junot Díaz has been accused by several writers of sexual misconduct or verbal abuse. Here is a fie photo of him in 2013. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)
This article is more than 1 year old.

A writer is accusing author Junot Díaz of sexual misconduct, and other writers are accusing him of verbal abuse. This comes a month after Díaz published a piece in The New Yorker that detailed the rape he experienced as a child.

Writer Zinzi Clemmons, who now teaches at Occidental College in Los Angeles, tweeted on her verified account Thursday night that when she was a 26-year-old graduate student, Díaz forcibly kissed her. She noted that she believed there were others with the same experience.

Clemmons published her debut novel, "What We Lose," in 2017. The National Book Foundation chose her for 5 Under 35 that year.

In a statement to WBUR, Clemmons said: “Junot Díaz has made his behavior the burden of young women — particularly women of color — for far too long, enabled by his team and the institutions that employ him. When this happened, I was a student; now I am a Professor and I cannot bear to think of the young women he has exploited in his position, and the many more that would be harmed if I said nothing.”

Clemmons' statement went on to say that it was time for Díaz to deal with the consequences of his actions.

"Not in a self-serving personal essay, but by losing some of what he has accumulated while conducting himself in this manner," she said.

In a statement provided through his agent to The New York Times, Díaz said:

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 continueI 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.

This comes as other prominent writers like Sherman Alexie, Jay Asher and James Dashner have been publicly accused of sexual harassment. The Swedish Academy announced Friday that it will not award a Nobel Prize in literature this year after news broke that Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of an academy member, groped Swedish Crown Princess Victoria in 2006. He had already been accused of sexual harassment or assault by 18 women, according to reporting by the Washington Post.

Since Clemmons' tweets late Thursday night, other authors have accused Díaz of verbal abuse directed particularly at women.

Author Carmen Maria Machado, whose short story collection "Her Body and Other Parties" was a finalist for the National Book Award, recalled a Q&A during which she asked Díaz about his protagonist's relationship with women in "This Is How You Lose Her."

In response, she tweeted that Díaz "went off on me for twenty minutes."

Author and playwright Monica Byrne, who is an MIT alumna, shared her experience of verbal abuse on Twitter and Facebook Friday morning as well.

Byrne called out Diaz's New Yorker article as an attempt to declare his innocence before a story broke.

The 49-year-old was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States as a child. He received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2012. In March, Díaz published his first children's book titled "Islandborn" about a child understanding her Dominican roots. He is currently a creative writing professor at MIT.

In a statement to WBUR on Sunday, MIT said: "As MIT looks into concerns shared on social media regarding Professor Diaz, we wish to make clear that we do not tolerate sexual harassment at MIT: at all times, we encourage any member of our community who has experienced or witnessed harassing behavior to report it using the resources we make available. 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."

Clemmons and Díaz were both on the schedule for the Sydney Writers' Festival in Australia, which started Monday and ends on Sunday.

With additional reporting by WBUR's Andrea Shea

Related:

Amy Gorel Twitter Producing Editor, The ARTery
Amy Gorel is the producing editor of The ARTery.

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