May 08, 2018
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.
As a grad student, I invited Junot Diaz 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, I refuse to be silent anymore.— zinziclemmons (@zinziclemmons) May 4, 2018
I told several people this story at the time, I have emails he sent me afterward (*barf*). This happened and I have receipts.— zinziclemmons (@zinziclemmons) May 4, 2018
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.
Do you think he was trying to pre-empt this from coming out with the essay he wrote in the New Yorker about being raped as a child? Like Kevin Spacey's "I'm gay" diversion?— Bina Shah (@BinaShah) May 4, 2018
Yes. And so do many of my colleagues. https://t.co/iEzXb1YYy0— zinziclemmons (@zinziclemmons) May 4, 2018
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.”
When I suggested that maybe my question had been answered, and he move on to someone else's question, he refused. He told me he was leaning on me to explain myself, which is what he did with his students. (Never mind that I wasn't his student, or a student at all.)— Carmen Maria Machado (@carmenmmachado) May 4, 2018
Every time he asked me a question, I answered it, and he became freshly enraged when I refused to capitulate. This went on and on and on and on until he finally ran out of steam.— Carmen Maria Machado (@carmenmmachado) May 4, 2018
And this happened in a room full of people! There's a recording! He was not embarrassed about his behavior at all. A friend of mine was so stressed out from the whole interaction that she texted me saying she'd have to leave so she could go home and take a Xanax.— Carmen Maria Machado (@carmenmmachado) May 4, 2018
I'd obviously struck a nerve, though I didn't understand precisely how. Because even if his book contained autobiographical material, I knew that reacting to a reader's criticism this way—confusing yourself for the character—was amateur hour. I knew it even then.— Carmen Maria Machado (@carmenmmachado) May 4, 2018
But 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.— Carmen Maria Machado (@carmenmmachado) May 4, 2018
Machado said she has heard similar stories of misconduct about Díaz similar to that shared by Clemmons.
In the intervening years, I've heard easily a dozen stories about fucked-up sexual misconduct on his part and felt weirdly lucky that all ("all") I got was a blast of misogynist rage and public humiliation.— Carmen Maria Machado (@carmenmmachado) May 4, 2018
Junot Díaz is a widely lauded, utterly beloved misogynist. His books are regressive and sexist. He has treated women horrifically in every way possible. And the #MeToo stories are just starting. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯— Carmen Maria Machado (@carmenmmachado) May 4, 2018
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.”