The Junot Diaz Situation

I’ve always considered Junot Diaz a sort of literary god, ever since I picked up and finished The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao not long after it was released. I’ve read all of his adult books, gone to one of his readings, and have read many of the various articles he’s written over the years. He’s always struck me as a remarkable writer, but admittedly with a sharp edge. After recently reading his New Yorker article in which he detailed the horrific sexual abuse he endured as a child, I appreciated his honesty and applauded his bravery.  He has alluded to it in various ways in his work, so I wasn’t really surprised, but nonetheless I was still deeply moved by his candor. I was fully and completely Team Junot- I probably would have bought a shirt that said as much.

Fast forward. Not long after his widely-read article was published a handful of women came out of the woodwork accusing him of various offensive infractions, one woman claiming he forcefully kissed her, another maintaining she felt violated by his demand their relationship be kept a secret, and others saying that he engaged in intense, insulting public discussion that was blatantly misogynistic. The media instantly attacked, social media blew up, and readers, like myself, were left at a loss. Diaz almost instantly claimed responsibility for his unsavory behavior and left the door open for further discussion (albeit the statement read generically and felt a bit sterile).  Just as quickly were also swift and intense blows to his academic and professional reputations, with statements from MIT and the Pulitzer committee stating their intentions to investigate the writer. Some of his peers have come to this defense, though, a group of respected academics recently issuing an open letter urging a reevaluation of how things had been handled. At the end of the day, though, this is a major blow that he may never fully recover from. And if does maintain his contracts, how will this event cloud  the reading of his future texts?

I’ve personally spent a lot of time thinking about the situation and have tried to approach the whole thing from all perspectives. 

As a fan? I’m sad and worried there may never again be a great Junot Diaz novel or collection to enjoy.

As a feminist? I’m angry that he has clearly taken advantage of women, using his clout as an author and professor to do so. 

As someone who fully supports racial equality? I am heartbroken that women of color seem to have been particularly victimized. Indian poet Shreerekha, whom he was once involved with, wrote in her post on The Rumpus that, “…the problematics of how black and brown women function as collateral damage in his journey to recovery… but the hidden costs of his cleansing are borne by women of color…” 

As a devil’s advocate? Does this constitute sexual assault? As a woman I don't want my body to ever be taken advantage of, but there's  a huge difference between a forced kiss and something like rape. We also haven't heard the detailed sides of both stories.

More than anything, this whole situations has just provoked so many questions for me as a consumer of art and literature. At what point do we separate a person and what they produce? Where are the lines drawn?

You just forced a kiss? Okay, I’ll read your books still.

You sexually assaulted young girls? Nope, not watching your movies.

You support a candidate who actively stands against my values? Sorry, can’t follow your show.

You have multiple criminal charges but can run a ball like no other? Okay, I’ll wear your jersey.

The grey area is the hardest part to navigate. There are certain instances where I will firmly cut ties with someone and quit supporting them in anyway, but Junot Diaz falls into this middle that I’m having trouble making sense of.  I’d never want my sister to date him, but I’d still probably want to take his class if I was a student. I don’t approve of how he’s treated women, but I can still be empathetic to his past and enjoy what he’s writing. Is it because his transgressions were limited to, mostly, outside of the body and not within? Yet if he was widely known as a cruel bully could I support his work? I also can’t help pondering the women’s side of this. At what point do you come forth publicly and call attention to someone’s actions? What should stay private? Who decides?

The only way I can make peace with situations like these is the fact that they elicit so much. Dialogue. Soul-searching. Reflection. Remorse. Empathy. 

A Sad Goodbye

Last night my husband and I made the decision to put down our thirteen-year-old Golden Cordie. She was diagnosed with leukemia three months ago and we didn't pursue chemo because of her age, so this day was inevitable. Over the weekend she couldn't keep down food or liquid, so by Sunday night we knew that she needed to get in to see a vet. I waited for several hours at the emergency clinic so she could be rehydrated and get some meds for a crazy high fever she had. Everything worked for a few hours and allowed her some sleep and a little pep in her step, but soon she was right back where she had been. When we went to her regular vet last night we anticipated the worst and our fears were confirmed. 

She was such a good dog. Anxious, neurotic, and stubborn, for sure, but she was sweet and trustworthy around our son and belongings. She loved banana muffins, hot dogs, swimming, and her family. She was a trooper until the very last second. 

She was loved immensely and will be missed terribly.  

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts



Hi friends! Link up in the comments if you play along!

1. Is it like totally lazy and ridiculous to really, really want to pay someone to come redo the shelving paper in my pantry and cupboards. I've never done it before but it seems incredibly annoying.

2. Monday when I got to work I noticed that Sawyer had put several of his coloring pages from the weekend in my bag for me to put up in my classroom. He has come a few times lately on Friday nights while I get some things done and he was really, really proud that his art was on my walls. 

3. Passive aggressive rant warning: I hate it when people take credit on social media for doing something (like buy a house, car, pay off student loans, etc...) when I know damn well that their parents helped them. It shouldn't bother me, but as someone who as paved her own way, proudly and with so much exhaustion and stress, it does. 

4. If you have kiddos, or know kiddos, the Dan Santat books are so good. We just read After the Fall and The Adventures of Beekle the Unimaginary Friend at dinner and I was reminded how great the stories and illustrations are.

5. I just finished listening to How to Party with and Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings and was pretty underwhelmed. I just downloaded The Recovering by Leslie Jamison, though, and I have pretty high hopes considering all of the buzz (no pun intended).

6. I have been working on making things more manageable in my life, and this week already feels better. I have been running 25 minutes a day, instead of longer chunks on just a few days. I try to do one chore a day to make the weekends easier. I grade a few papers whenever I have spare time, since a little is always better than nothing. I just constantly have to remind myself that forward movement is better than stagnancy and that as long as I'm making progress in whatever the area is things are better than before. 

7. I have many, many thoughts on the Junot Diaz scandal that I will hopefully get out on here tomorrow. 

8. I watched the first episode of The Handmaid's Tale last week and it was really, really good. It's obviously completely strayed from the book, but I still hear Atwood's voice and feel like her vision is being respected. 

Out and About: Disneyland, LA Times Festival of Books, and The King Tut Exhibit



In a perfect world I'd have time to write separate reviews on our trip to Disneyland, my time at the LA Times Festival of Books, and the California Science Center's King Tut Exhibit, but we're going to go ahead and smoooooosh them all together here instead!

Two weeks ago my husband and I took Sawyer on a surprise early visit to Disneyland and California Adventure for his fourth birthday. We live less than an hour away but have purposefully waited until now to take him, since we wanted him to be able to spend the day without napping, remember the trip, and have a good idea who the characters were. He was totally surprised and so excited! We were able to do a ton of rides the first day, and since we had park-hopper tickets we stayed the night in a hotel around the corner and went back the next morning. It was pretty crowded, especially since the new Pixar Celebration has started, but we had a great time. I am not in any hurry to go back, so we're thinking maybe every two or so years (I personally am going back in a few weeks, but as a chaperone).







I was also fortunate enough to go to the LA Times Festival of Books, as well, and saw Patton Oswald, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Dave Eggars. I went with two friends from work, also English teachers, so this was right up our alley! I am still bitter about the fact that they moved it to USC from UCLA (Go Bruins!) a few years ago, but it wasn't terribly crowded and the weather wasn't as hot as it has been in the past. As always, it's just such a treat to be around literary people and to hear writers speak. 



Yesterday Sawyer and I went to the California Science Center in LA to see the Imax Panda movie but to also see the King Tut Exhibit, which had 150 items from Tut's tomb. This is the last time Egypt is going to let these items travel, since their permanent museum is ready for them, so it was neat seeing something so old and special when it really will be the last time. It was really crowded, but we still had a great time. We popped into visit the space shuttle and walked around a few of the exhibits in between all of our ticket times. 








May Intentions

[college acceptance letters! I am so proud and excited]


Only six days into the month... not bad... or good... Anyway, if you're new around here, every month I (try to) write out a list of intentions for the month and revisit if I followed through with the previous ones.

April:

1. Grade like a crazy person- Yes I really, really did. Sadly, I am not caught up and my students have been turning in things faster than I can grade them. #Englishteacherproblems

2. Celebrate Sawyer's birthday- Yup! We had a great time and really made it special. 

3. Stop dwelling on the opinions of others- Nope! What was I thinking? This is just a character flaw.

4. See friends- Yup! I have seen lots of friends lately and have plans for even more outings.

May: 

1. Enjoy the last month with my seniors: I have all these kids for two school years, some three, and some I even had when they were in fourth grade. They are a really special group and I am so proud of what they've done and what they will do.

2. Start planning for summer: Of course I have things in the works, but I want to be a bit more organized about it. There are some things set in stone, but I want to generate a list of local fun things for Sawyer and I that we haven't done yet.

3. Yoga: While no where near lofty, I want to make sure to get in at least one yoga session a week. It's good for my joints, muscles, and sanity.

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