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Heroes Turned Villains: A Rumination on Junot Diaz and “A Legacy of Childhood Trauma”

*A note before you dive in: If you have not read about Junot Diaz’s allegations of sexual misconduct or his New Yorker Article “A Legacy of Childhood Trauma”, please do so. This post is in response to these events. 

SCI_FAMILY_QUOTES_7Reconciling the love of an artist’s work from the crimes of that artist is a hard pill to swallow. I have been thinking a lot about Junot Diaz in this respect. I know that by now this is old news, but it took some time for me to process. Junot Diaz has, and probably always will be one of my favorite writers. If I am completely honest, it was his short story collection, Drown (Alongside Adam Haslett and Mailey Meloy) that first infected me as a college sophomore; he was my muse, my idol. And before we go any further, no, this is not a plea to accept the fuckery of artists because the art they produce has merit. I believe that when an artists does something that is morally or legally heinous that they have forfeited their right to godhood. They should be disgraced.

In the case of Junot Diaz, for me it is a story of pain and of transference. Diaz as a child was exposed to a terrible pain which he then inflicted upon young women by forcibly kissing them and engaging in “misogynistic verbal abuse”. As fans we fall in love with the work—a book, tv show, character, an album— and because we feel so close to that work we transfer those feelings to its creator. When that creator fucks up, he/she takes away that joy for the fans. Fans are causalities of those actions too, albeit not as severe and the physical victims.

I will never look at Junot Diaz the same way. I won’t recommend him to young authors, and I won’t tout his praises. It will be a long time before I crack open Drown again; and when I do, I know that it will appear a little dimmer to me than it once did.  In spite of all of this, I find myself thinking back on the moments of Diaz’s life.  While I don’t excuse what he did, I must admit that I do have some sympathy for the devil so to speak. I feel for the terrified little boy, for the events of the past that have helped to shape a broken man. But the Past left unaddressed affected Diaz’s present behaviors. Those present behaviors have razed his legacy. All we can do is wait and see if he rises to the challenge of becoming a better man. On that day I will take him off the shelf and read his work again.


Jekeva Phillips

Editor-in-Chief, Word Lit Zine