Díaz pulls out of festival following harassment claims

Díaz pulls out of festival following harassment claims

Novelist Junot Díaz has reportedly pulled out of Sydney Writers’ Festival following accusations of sexually inappropriate behaviour.

The Pulitzer prize-winning writer has been accused of forcibly kissing fellow writer Zinzi Clemmons when she was a 26-year-old graduate student. The Dominican American writer was confronted with the claims at a festival event and on social media and has since cancelled his appearances at the Sydney Writers Festival, according to the Guardian.

Clemmons' allegations were first tweeted on Friday (4th May), when she wrote: “As a grad student, I invited Junot Díaz to speak to a workshop on issues of representation in literature. I was an unknown wide-eyed 26-year-old, and he used it as an opportunity to corner and forcibly kiss me. I’m far from the only one he’s done this to. I refuse to be silent any more.”

On Saturday a spokesperson for the festival, which ran from 30th April to 6th May, confirmed that Díaz had pulled out from his remaining commitments and is believed to have left Australia soon afterwards. A panel discussion entitled 'The Politics of Empathy' that Díaz had been due to participate in was reportedly cancelled.

“Sydney Writers’ Festival is a platform for the sharing of powerful stories: urgent, necessary and sometimes difficult,” the festival said in a statement to the Guardian. “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.”

Two other women have also publicly accused Díaz of sexually inappropriate behaviour, a few weeks after his New Yorker essay was published, describing his own childhood rape experience at the hands of “a grown-up that [he] truly trusted”.

He responded to the claims with a statement provided through his literary agent, Nicole Aragi, to the New York Times on Friday (4th May).

“I take responsibility for my past,” he said. “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.”

In March, it was announced he would write his first children's book for Oneworld.

The Dominican-born and New Jersey-raised author’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Faber & Faber) won the prize in Pulitzer Prize in 2008.