Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz found himself in the middle of a #MeToo controversy earlier this year. After winning the grand literature prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the Dominican-American author became a literary darling, authoring more books including children’s book “Islandborn” earlier this year. However, after publishing an essay with The New Yorker in which he wrote about being raped at the age of eight and the subsequent trauma and behaviors that followed the assault, the author was accused of sexual misconduct and misogynistic behavior by another author on Twitter. It didn’t take long for more stories to surface. A month later, in June of 2018, Díaz was cleared of misconduct allegations by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
This week, however, Díaz is being welcomed back by the Pulitzer Prize Board after an independent review “did not find evidence warranting removal.”
The Pulitzer Prize Board announced that they would “welcome” Diaz to complete his term, which ends in Apri of 2019.
Junot Diaz will keep his spot on the Pulitzer Board after a review of public misconduct allegations against the author by a law firm "did not find evidence warranting removal." https://t.co/DV32vK66kl
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) November 17, 2018
According to USA Today, the Pulitzer Prize Board took Díaz’s allegations seriously and they have been under a five-month review conducted by the Washington D.C.-based law firm Williams & Connolly.
In a statement released last Friday, the Pulitzer Board said that the law firm conducted “a thorough, wide-ranging, fair, and independent review” following the “public allegations” against the author. After the months-long process, which “involved interviews with dozens of witnesses and analysis of hundreds of pages of documents (as well as audiotapes, where available),” the Pulitzer Board made their decision.
Sexual misconduct allegations against Díaz surfaced last May after author Zinzi Clemmons tweeted that Díaz had forcibly kissed her when she was a grad student and alleged he had done this to others.
As a grad student, I invited Junot Diaz to speak to a workshop on issues of representation in literature. 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.
— zinziclemmons (@zinziclemmons) May 4, 2018
At the time, Díaz denied the encounter, telling The Boston Globe that he was “shocked.”
“I was, like, ‘Yo, this doesn’t sound like anything that’s in my life, anything that’s me’,” he said to the publication.
However, not everyone was convinced. After Clemmons’ allegations came out, others came forward with misogyny claims against Díaz. Meanwhile, some called for Díaz to come forward about the “hurt” he himself alleged to in his The New Yorker essay. And others still felt that his silence and humility in the face of allegations was a performance hiding the “violent thing underneath.”
Since news broke that the Pulitzer Prize Board will “welcome” back Díaz, Twitter has exploded with reactions varying from doubtful to concerned to joyful.
It's more plausible that they found nothing credible, but the world being what it is, and people being people, can't guarantee they have found every stone that could be turned over, so are hedging bets with a clearance that has fungible edges.
— heath(er) quinn 🐢 Occam's razor artist (@heathquinn) November 20, 2018
Some are wondering whether the review of Díaz was truly as thorough as the law firm and Pulitzer Prize Board claim it has been. “The world being what it is,” writes Twitter user @heathquinn, “can’t guarantee they have found every stone that could be turned over” after another user, @hoperhenderson pointed out that “mistreatment/abuse of women is often treated as no big deal.”
Others questioned the validity of those who still claim that accusations against Díaz were a conspiracy.
you think multiple women–including WOC not from privileged backgrounds!–came together in a massive conspiracy to tarnish his reputation… occam's razor dictates otherwise.
— hope henderson (@hoperhenderson) November 20, 2018
Many on Twitter are claiming that the #MeToo allegations against Díaz were part of a conspiracy but, as Twitter user @hoperhenderson points out, a massive conspiracy that included women of color seems unlikely. Still, the law firm review seems conclusive enough for the Pulitzer Prize Board and the news is being vastly celebrated on Twitter by fans of the Dominican-American author.
Meanwhile, author Michael Deibert, who is working on a book about the history of the United States in Puerto Rico, added an interesting tidbit to the conversation.
An interesting coda to the whole Junot Díaz affair: An old friend of mine, who was one of his students at @SyracuseU, wrote to me the following: "He was a brutal & often really humiliating professor who said absolutely terrible things to his students all the time." #Pulitzer
— Michael Deibert (@michaelcdeibert) November 20, 2018
Whether or not Díaz was “brutal” or a “really humiliating professor” seems to no longer be an issue of concern for his employers since he has remained a professor at MIT after their internal investigation. When it comes to sexual assault allegations, the latest news from the Pulitzer Prize Board has cleared him for now. His original accuser, Zinzi Clemmons, has yet to comment on Twitter about this result. Carmen Maria Machado, who also shared on Twitter about her misogynistic interaction with Díaz, has also made no recent comment.