Junot Diaz Withdraws From Writers Festival After Claims of Sexual Misconduct

Author Junot Diaz has withdrawn from the last few days of the Sydney Writers’ Festival following multiple sexual harassment claims leveled against him by female writers on Twitter. During a Q&A at the festival on Friday, Zinzi Clemmons, author of the coming-of-age novel What We Lose, confronted Diaz about an alleged past instance of sexual harassment that she said occurred when she was a student. Later, she followed up on Twitter, prompting a few other female writers to recount similar alleged experiences with the Pulitzer Prize winner.

At the Q&A, Clemmons asked Diaz about an April New Yorker article in which Diaz detailed his childhood sexual assault, and asked him why, then, he had put her in a vulnerable position when she invited him to speak at a workshop when she was 26. “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,” she tweeted after the Q&A. After her tweets went viral, writers Carmen Maria Machado and Monica Byrne also alleged that Diaz had subjected them to inappropriate behavior in the past.

Diaz acknowledged wrongdoing to The New York Times in a statement that also indicated Diaz had come forward about being assaulted as a child because he anticipated allegations regarding his own behavior. “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,” he said. “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.” In a statement of its own, the Sydney Writers’ Workshop explained that Diaz had pulled out of the final days of the festival, and that the festival was committed to a “supportive and safe environment for our authors and audiences alike.”

“Junot Diaz has made his behavior the burden of young women—particularly women of color—for far too long, enabled by his team and the institutions that employ him,” Clemmons meanwhile wrote in a statement to the Associated Press, saying she doubts that she’s the only woman who has allegedly been treated this way by Diaz. “It is time for the burden of his bad behavior to be laid squarely at his feet, and for him to deal with the consequences of his actions.”

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