A Brief on Hideous Things About David Foster Wallace
Junot Díaz’s accusers are being heard. But the literary world has far worse skeletons in its closet.
TW: Sexual assault, domestic violence, abuse
On May 4th, Junot Díaz began being publicly accused of assaulting and harassing women at literary events and in his private relationships. This article on Book Riot covers the basics, but there are many more women sharing about their encounters with Díaz under the #JunotDiaz tag on Twitter.
These accusations come on the heels of Junot Díaz writing a truly bracing and self-reflective essay for the New Yorker about his own experience as a sexual assault victim. In the piece, Díaz implies that his own history of abuse (and his repression of it) led, in part, to his inability to form respectful romantic and sexual bonds with women for many years.
For the most part, it seems, Díaz’s accusers are being taken seriously. This is notably unlike how many people in the literary world responded to other, past accusations of abuse, including very well verified ones like those against David Foster Wallace. That Díaz is a man of color and Wallace was a white, wealthy son of academics is obviously relevant. And to highlight this, Wallace’s most outspoken and best-known accuser, the fantastic writer Mary Karr, has come forward again to remind us of her deceased ex’s actions.
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A lot of the people now being publicly accused of assault, rape, and harassment are white men. But the majority of the people actually meeting consequences for their behavior are men of color. The more an abuser’s existence challenges stereotypical narratives of brown and black men as predators and white women as prey, the less likely the abuser is to be fully punished for their actions.
In the #MeToo world, white, female singer Melanie Martinez can be accused of rape and get off scott-free, and white male harassers like Charlie Rose and Harvey Weinstein can disappear briefly, receive some therapy, then come back to opine about what they’ve…