Library Cancels Junot Diaz Visit

By on May 23, 2018

JACKSON HOLE, WY – The #MeToo movement stretched into the adult literary sphere when author Junot Diaz was recently accused of sexual misconduct. In light of the accusations, Teton County Library has canceled Diaz’s August visit as a Page to the Podium speaker.

“This decision was made after thoughtful and deliberative conversations surrounding the damaging cycle of abuse and what form collective responsibility can take to end that cycle,” a statement issued by the library on Wednesday said. “The library remains committed to being a safe space for open dialogue and learning. With the aim of continuing an important and urgent conversation around power structures and the intersecting issues of sexual abuse, sexism, and racial oppression, the library and the Community Safety Network are in the process of planning a community discussion.”

Details on that event are forthcoming.

In early May, author Zinzi Clemmons accused Diaz of forcibly kissing her. “As a grad student, I invited Junot Díaz to speak to a workshop on issues of representation in literature,” she wrote on Twitter. “I was an unknown wide-eyed 26-year-old, and he used it as an opportunity to corner and forcibly kiss me. I’m far from the only one he’s done this to, I refuse to be silent anymore.”

Clemmons is the author of What We Lose, a novel published in 2017. It is comprised of vignettes from her childhood and the time she spent caring for her mother who died of cancer.

After Clemmons’ accusations, another woman came forward about Diaz’s aggressive behavior. Author Carmen Maria Machado said Diaz was verbally abusive after she questioned one of his character’s relationships with women. “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,” she wrote on Twitter.

Machado’s short stories book Her Body and Other Parties was a 2017 National Book Award Finalist.

In response, Diaz issued a statement through his agent: “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 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.”

Diaz’s 2008 book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is the winner of the 2008 National
Book Critics Circle Award and the
 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In an article for The New Yorker, Diaz described his experience being raped as a child. He said he is still grappling with the effects of such abuse.

Planet Jackson Hole published the opinions of two local women in its May 9 issue about Diaz’s upcoming appearance. Anne Marie Wells pointed out Diaz’s male characters’ problematic and often misogynistic relationships with women. Still, she and writer Meg Daly insisted Diaz’s visit should not be canceled. They saw his speaking engagement as an opportunity for important dialogue.

Other women took to social media in response to Wells and Daly with differing views. “I personally feel that the pool of extremely talented creatives whose work deserves more attention is so large, that it seems like a waste to spend money and time on the folks that are abusive and demeaning to others,” Emily Poole wrote on Facebook. “I’d rather discover a new minority/lgbtq+ author through a library event than hear a misogynistic one explain himself.”

About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Planet Jackson Hole and Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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