After being called out in person for sexual misconduct at a Sydney Writers’ Festival event, The Guardian reports that Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, has withdrawn from the festival entirely. While at a panel Q&A yesterday, Díaz was confronted by author Zinzi Clemmons. Later on social media, Clemmons explained that, after inviting him to a writing workshop at Columbia University, Díaz allegedly cornered and forcibly kissed her, an incident subsequently followed by a series of unwanted emails from the author. Fellow writers Carmen Maria Machado and Monica Byrne also took to social media to recount their own allegedly misogynistic run-ins with the author, accusing Díaz of verbally berating them during different incidents. In a new statement, the Sydney Writers’ Festival says Díaz has withdrawn from the rest of the festival following the accusations of “inappropriate and aggressive” harassment.
“Sydney Writers’ Festival is a platform for the sharing of powerful stories: urgent, necessary and sometimes difficult,” the festival announced. “Such conversations have never been more timely. We remain committed to ensuring they occur in a supportive and safe environment for our authors and audiences.” Guardian Australia’s Steph Harmon posted the festival’s statement on Twitter, which continues: “In his recent New Yorker essay, Mr. Diaz wrote, ‘Eventually the past finds you.’ As for so many in positions of power, the moment to reckon with the consequences of past behavior has arrived.”
Last month Díaz published an essay in The New Yorker revealing the life-long impact of his childhood sexual abuse. In a statement made in response to Clemmons’s sexual harassment allegation, Díaz told the New York Times, “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. 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.”