Is This Your [Literary] King?


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Killmonger and I want answers!

Yes, this is relating the the recent #MeToo accusations toward Dominican author Junot Diaz. No I do not have a personal story about him to tell related to the #MeToo movement. This, instead, is a reminder not to make gods out of men.

When I read Diaz’s essay about abuse last month, I saw it for not just a way to tell his story and maybe help others discuss abuse, but also as a preemptive strike against possible abuse allegations. I should have bet money on it, except what kind of monster reaps rewards from others’ misery? Oh, right…

So here’s my takeaway, because more and more we are faced with “how do we separate the artist from the art?” I loved Drown and The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and even that sorta sci-fi-ish short he wrote for The New Yorker a while back. The man can spin a yarn.

The fact that he’s an asshole with a nasty temper who uses and abuses women (no allegedly needed, folks. He admitted it. Don’t debate me on this fact. It’s not a conspiracy. HE ADMITTED IT. Debate your mom!) doesn’t take away from the fact that his writing is stellar. The art is still valid. It’s still wonderful. Drown helped me decide to be a storyteller.

All it means is that he’s a flawed human and that if I’m ever in the same room with him, I’ll think twice (thrice!) about interacting with him. In fact, I’ve had many opportunities to have “an audience” with Diaz and have always declined (I’ll attribute that good fortune to this gnawing feeling in my gut that kept telling me, Nah, Girl, you met him once and that’s all you needed. Move on.). Again, not because anything transpired between us–our one and only conversation was a pleasant and dry “hi” and a “Your good friend was my grad school mentor”–but rather because he’s just a flawed human who happens to have written these stories I liked (and others I didn’t) and after the initial meeting, what else was there to gleam from meeting him? HE IS JUST A MAN.

If Diaz was (is?) someone you idolized, well, what can I tell you? You bet on a bad horse. It happens. I, too, celebrated his Pulitzer Prize for all of DR and the writers of color watching him keep us on the map. But, like everyone’s Big Momma says, “What you do in the dark, comes to the light.” We can’t un-know who he really is or what he’s done. Maybe just hold on to that feeling you had when you first read his work, and then go create your own beauty in this world. Or support other writers who are trying to do just that.

Raquel Ivelisse

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