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May 08, 2018

Penn writing instructor adds to misconduct allegations against Junot Díaz

Carmen Maria Machado, a University of Pennsylvania writing instructor and Philadelphia-based writer recently nominated for the National Book Award, is one of several women coming forward with allegations of inappropriate behavior against famed novelist Junot Díaz.

Accusations against Díaz came into focus Friday when author Zinzi Clemmons directly asked Díaz about his behavior during a literary panel in Australia, taking to Twitter shortly after to share her story. According to Clemmons, Díaz cornered her while visiting Columbia University when she was a student there and forcibly kissed her.

Clemmons went on to say that Díaz’s recently published New Yorker essay, “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma,” in which he detailed his own experience being sexually abused as a child, was written to preemptively curb allegations against him from arising.

Clemmons’ accusations cued several others from coming forward with their own stories about Díaz, including one from Machado, who is currently Penn’s writer-in-residence.

On Twitter, Machado detailed an alleged encounter with Díaz during his book tour for “This Is How You Lose Her,” wherein she asked Díaz about the protagonist's “unhealthy, pathological relationship with women.” Asking this question, Machado said, prompted Diaz to go into a 20-minute tirade specifically targeted at Machado.

“He asked me to back up my claim with evidence,” Machado wrote in a string of Tweets detailing the incident. 

“I cited several passages from the book in front of me. He raised his voice, paced, implied I was a prude who didn’t know how to read or draw reasonable conclusions from text.”

According to Machado, this questioning went on for 20 minutes until Diaz “finally ran out of steam.”

Machado said she has heard similar stories of misconduct about Díaz similar to that shared by Clemmons.

Shortly after Clemmons’ accusations were made public, Díaz issued a statement through his literary agent, Nicole Aragi, to the New York Times.

“I take responsibility for my past,” he said.

“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 womens' stories in this essential and overdue cultural movement. We must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries.”