In the days since author Zinzi Clemmons confronted Junot Díaz and accused him of sexual misconduct at a literary festival in Sydney, Australia, and later tweeted about her allegations, a number of other women have come forward with stories of alleged sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of Díaz. On Friday evening, author Alisa Valdes opened up about Díaz’s “misogynistic abuse” in a blog post titled, “I Tried to Warn You About Junot Díaz.” In 1996, the year Díaz’s short-story collection Drown came out, Valdes was a young reporter at the Boston Globe who was looking to make the jump from journalism to books. When Valdes went to interview Díaz while he was on book tour, he allegedly treated her rudely, and then suggested they finish their interview at her apartment later that night so he could look over her manuscript.
She describes the encounter below.
Junot came over that night. I had the book out — it was the first 100 or so pages of what would later become THE DIRTY GIRLS SOCIAL CLUB, called MERENGUE back then. Díaz sat too close to me on my couch. I remember being super uncomfortable, crossing my arms defensively, and him moving them, opening them, and his staring at my chest. “Why are you doing that, you’re so lovely,” he said.
We were more or less the same age, and he wasn’t my teacher, but there was still a strange power dynamic. He was the NY literary writer, the darling of the New Yorker. I was a rising star in literary nonfiction, longing to enter his world. He told me, sincerely I thought, that he loved my writing, that no one was writing with my voice and it was much needed. He said he’d do what he could to help me get it to the right people when it was finished.
That night, they ended up having sex, and Valdes later visited Díaz a handful of times in New York City. While at first, she thought she had “found a kindred spirit” in Díaz, she says he “quickly became misogynistic, demeaning and cruel.” She describes her experience of leaving him as “painful and upsetting.” After she published her book The Dirty Girls Social Club, Díaz allegedly didn’t congratulate her — Valdes says he only mentioned her book to her once as one that “girls in his classes like,” after she reached out to congratulate him on his Pulitzer.
Frustrated with his treatment of her, Valdes wrote a blog post saying that the only difference between herself and Díaz was that the latter fit the “white liberal stereotype of Latino other-ness and misery,” and she didn’t. His response and those from his fans were allegedly cruel. “He said I was arrogant,” she writes. “He wasn’t the only one. Many Latinos who loved him, his readers, wrote to me to tell me I was a horrible person for bringing down ‘one of our own.’”
To conclude the post, Valdes thanks all the other brave women who came forward with allegations against Díaz.
“Thank you, Zinzi, Carmen, Monica, for giving me the courage to know it wasn’t just me,” she writes. “Or me at all. It was him.”