The decision by Boston Review to retain Junot Diaz as an editor despite recent sexual misconduct allegations isn’t sitting well with some members of the magazine’s staff.
Three poetry editors have announced they plan to resign effective July 1 because they disagree with the decision of Boston Review editor in chief Deborah Chasman to keep Diaz on as fiction editor, a position he’s held since 2003.
In a statement posted on the magazine’s website this week, Chasman and executive editor Joshua Cohen said they had done a “careful review of the public complaints” about Diaz, as well as their own inquiry, and determined that “the objectionable conduct described in the public reports does not have the kind of severity that animated the #MeToo movement.”
That prompted Boston Review poetry editors Timothy Donnelly, BK Fisher, and Stefania Heim to respond with a statement of their own.
“What most distresses us are the [Boston Review statement’s] apparent arbitration of what constitutes inclusion in the #MeToo movement and its lack of attentiveness to power dynamics in a star-driven media and publishing landscape,” the three editors wrote. “Though we raised these reservations to the executive editors and asked them repeatedly to rethink their position, they went forward as planned.”
Diaz, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” has been accused of sexual misconduct and mistreatment by several women, including novelist Zinzi Clemmons, who tweeted last month that Diaz once cornered and forcibly kissed her.
The accusations came soon after The New Yorker published an essay by Diaz in which he detailed the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy, and the effect he says it’s had on his life and his relationships with women. Responding to Clemmons and other women, Diaz acknowledged that he has not always behaved appropriately with women.
“I take responsibility for my past,” he said in a statement. “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.”
The Boston Review was started in 1975 as a quarterly devoted to literature and the arts. Today it describes itself as a “political and literary forum — a public space for robust discussion of ideas and culture.”
Attempts to reach Chasman were unsuccessful Thursday, but it appears the magazine is standing by its decision. In an e-mail to Publishers Weekly, Cohen wrote: “The Boston Review poetry editors have made a remarkable contribution to Boston Review: they are amazing people and we are incredibly grateful for all that they have done. They have decided to resign effective July 1 because they disagree deeply with our decision about how to handle Boston Review’s relationship with Junot Díaz. We think we have done the right thing. But that conviction, arrived at after long reflection and many conversations [with authors], does not remove our sadness at their decision to separate.”