May 4, 2014

SWPL favorite Junot Diaz on the Unbearable Lightness of his wallet

Dominican Person of Color
From The New Yorker:
APRIL 30, 2014 
MFA VS. POC 
POSTED BY JUNOT DIAZ

This is a condensed version of the introduction to “Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing from the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop,” which will be published this week. 
1
When I was in my mid-twenties I decided to apply for an MFA in creative writing. ... 
2
I didn’t have a great workshop experience. Not at all. In fact by the start of my second year I was like: get me the f*** out of here. 
So what was the problem? 
Oh just the standard problem of MFA programs. 
That s*** was too white. 
3
Some of you understand completely. And some of you ask: Too white … how? 
... Too white as in the MFA had no faculty of color in the fiction program—like none—and neither the faculty nor the administration saw that lack of color as a big problem. (At least the students are diverse, they told us.) Too white as in my workshop reproduced exactly the dominant culture’s blind spots and assumptions around race and racism (and sexism and heteronormativity, etc). In my workshop there was an almost lunatical belief that race was no longer a major social force (it’s class!). In my workshop we never explored our racial identities or how they impacted our writing—at all. Never got any kind of instruction in that area—at all....
From what I saw the plurality of students and faculty had been educated exclusively in the tradition of writers like William Gaddis, Francine Prose, or Alice Munro—and not at all in the traditions of Toni Morrison, Cherrie Moraga, Maxine Hong-Kingston, Arundhati Roy, Edwidge Danticat, Alice Walker, or Jamaica Kincaid. In my workshop the default subject position of reading and writing—of Literature with a capital L—was white, straight and male. ...

100% percent white, straight and male like Francine Prose or Alice Munro? Did Diaz even reread his first draft before publishing it in The New Yorker?

Also, notice that "Toni Morrison, Cherrie Moraga, Maxine Hong-Kingston, Arundhati Roy, Edwidge Danticat, Alice Walker, or Jamaica Kincaid" are all female. Perhaps Diaz is protecting his franchise as the male POC MFA writer from potential competitors?
Oh, yes: too white indeed. I could write pages on the unbearable too-whiteness of my workshop—I could write folio, octavo and duodecimo on its terrible whiteness—but you get the idea. ...

"Unbearable too-whiteness?"

And he goes on in that vein for some time. Shouldn't Mr. Diaz boycott writing in The New Yorker until its editors adopt new standards that will attract a subscriber base of less Unbearable Whiteness? They could send John McPhee to write 30,000 words on Kim Kardashian's wedding to Kanye, that kind of thing.

In the meantime, however, Diaz is making a killing off of white people's love of off-white people complaining about white people.

Another Dominican, before/after
I realize that Dominican baseball stars aren't representative of everybody born in the Dominican Republic, but it's worth comparing the looks of Diaz to other celebrities born in the Dominican Republic, like slugger Sammy Sosa (before and after his unfortunate experience with skin-whitening creams).

Back home in the DR, Diaz would be more or less of a Person of Pallor, but playing at anti-white rage has been very, very good to him in America as the go-to Hispanic guy for receiving literary prizes, including the $500k MacArthur "genius" fellowship. From his Wikipedia page:
Awards and nominations[edit] 
2002 PEN/Malamud Award
2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
2007 Salon Book Award for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
2007 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao[57]
2007 Los Angeles Times Book Prize (Fiction) finalist for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao[58]
2008 Fellow of the American Academy Rome Prize
2008 Dayton Literary Peace Prize (Fiction) for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao[59]
2008 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award (Fiction) for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao[60]
2009 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award shortlist for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
2012 MacArthur Fellowship
2012 National Book Award, finalist, This is How You Lose Her [61]
2012 Publishers Weekly Best Books, This is How You Lose Her[62]
2012 Kansas City Star Top 100 Books, This is How You Lose Her
2012 New York Times 100 Notable Books, This is How You Lose Her
2012 Goodreads Choice Awards, Best Fiction, finalist, This is How You Lose Her[63]
2012 Story Prize, finalist[64][65][66]
2013 Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award, winner, "Miss Lora" from This is How You Lose Her[67]
2013 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award longlist for This is How You Lose Her
2013 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction finalist (Fiction) for This is How You Lose Her[68][69]
2013 Honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Letters), Brown University[70]
2013 Norman Mailer Prize (Distinguished Writing)[71]
        

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

Never heard of him.

Anonymous said...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anis-shivani/the-15-most-overrated-con_b_672974.html#s123760&title=Junot_Diaz_Abuelos

#11 Junot Diaz

"Exemplary Sentence: "Negro, please." OK, a longer one: "He wore his semi-kink hair in a Puerto Rican afro, rocked enormous Section 8 glasses--his "anti-pussy devices," Al and Miggs, his only friends, called them--sported an unappealing trace of mustache on his upper lip and possessed a set of close-set eyes that made him look somewhat retarded."

Doesn't realize the fine line between presenting the dark underside of reality and glorifying it. The Dominicans in his books are obsessed with screwing--that's how this uber-nerd desperately tries to establish his street/ghetto cred. Crowned the prince of Dominican fiction with Drown, he made us wait 11 years for his even worse follow-up, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Replaces plot in stories and novel with pumped-up "voice." Oscar, the science fiction nerd, tries to lose his virginity--that's basically the whole story. His sister Lola thinks of nothing but fucking, his mother just wants to fuck, and when Oscar tries to fuck an older woman back in Santo Domingo, he gets killed--because the agony of the novel has to end somehow. His manic voice describes everything with the same faux energy, the ear-shattering ghetto volume, as though there were no difference between murder and puking. Seems to work with a checklist as he designs his plots--the dictator Trujillo, the projects, drugs, family secrets, grandfather in prison, yep, everything checked off. Has no clue about the rhythm of language, just strings together discrete sentences until he has enough for a book. Might one day move beyond writing about pussy-hunting nerds and write in a language above that of his childish protagonists', but it might be 11 more years--at least. Recently appointed to the Pulitzer Prize board."

Anonymous said...

"""""...Dominican baseball stars aren't representative of everybody born in the Dominican Republic, but it's worth comparing the looks of Diaz to other celebrities born in the Dominican Republic, like slugger Sammy Sosa"""""""

What about A-Rod?

Anonymous said...

Based on that photo I suspect he would be considered solidly white in the Dominican Republic. I know that he is despised by conservative and nationalist Dominicans for his 'pro-Haitian' views and his criticism the Dominican rejection of 'black' identity. The excerpts from the article are certainly unflattering.

Steve Sailer said...

A-Rod was born in America.

Anonymous said...

Based on that photo I suspect he would be considered solidly white in the Dominican Republic.


Hell, based on that photo I suspect he would be considered solidly white in the US of A.

Anonymous said...

""""A-Rod was born in America.""""""

Right. But, isn't he Dominican or he grew up there as well? Always thought he resembled a beige version of Cal Ripken, his idol.




"""""POSTED BY JUNOT DIAZ"""""""


Maybe you out there know Diaz, BUT I DONT KNOW HIM.

Oswald Spengler said...

Junot Diaz looks (and writes) like Ali G if Ali was a hipster instead of a chav.

Anonymous said...

Related to Dominicans, the US occupied and ran Dominica twice, from 1916-1924, and from 1965-1966. When the Marines invaded in 1965 there was a pretty pitched little battle; a number of these Marines went on to fight in Vietnam.

In probably rare good news, the US managed to mostly get out of a colonial relation with Dominica, maybe (or not?):

"After World War I, public opinion in the United States began to run against the occupation. Warren G. Harding, who succeeded Wilson in March 1921, had campaigned against the occupations of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic..."

doombuggy said...

unbearable too-whiteness of my workshop... its terrible whiteness

Not only do these hacks need to keep clapping at their political assembly, they have to keep clapping louder and louder.

Maximo Macaroni said...

Aren't Dominica and the Dominican Republic two different places? Or do all these pseudo-Hispanic Caribbean guys and place names look alike?

Bert said...

"Aren't Dominica and the Dominican Republic two different places?"

Bingo. Dominica is a tiny island nation that only gained it's independence in 1978 and is remembered mostly due to the "Bayou of Pigs" fracas in the early 80s.

Oswald Spengler said...

doombuggy said...

unbearable too-whiteness of my workshop...its terrible whiteness

Not only do these hacks need to keep clapping at their political assembly, they have to keep clapping louder and louder.

5/4/14, 5:56 PM

--------------------------------------------------------------------

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXGh_sbPUk0

Anonymous said...

After reading that article on the New Yorker website, I took a peek at some of the comments - It's pretty depressing reading.

The future is not looking good.

Harry Baldwin said...

In a just world Steve Sailer would get the MacArthur Prize instead of Junot Diaz.

David said...

Diaz is too black... unbearably and terribly black.

Anonymous said...

Quick survey of google images of Diaz; he definitely seems to be a guy who responds well to sunlight. In some shots he's pretty dark. In others, he's no darker than Al Pacino.

Steve Sailer said...

$500k can pay for a tanning salon membership.

Anonymous said...

RE: Coping with "Whiteness,"

Diaz must really suffer, seeing as how he is a professor of creative writing at MIT. Maybe he copes by hanging out with the Asian students.


Anonymous said...

On the plus side, Diaz's girlfriend, Marjorie Liu, is pretty cute. Seems that she's an author of paranormal romances and comic books for MARVEL. Maybe that enhances his geek cred at MIT.

Anonymous said...

Quotes from Diaz's article:

"...more resources online than you can shake a stick at."

"In fact by the start of my second year I was like: get me the f--- out of here."

"That s--- almost never happens but there it was, the real deal and, desperate for anything like a community, I jumped right the f--- in."

It's depressing to realize that the person who writes like this is one of the most esteemed living authors in America.

Anonymous said...

Funny how Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Twain, etc, managed to learn how to write fiction without the benefit of an MFA....

Anonymous said...

"Too white as in my workshop reproduced exactly the dominant culture’s blind spots and assumptions around race and racism (and sexism and heteronormativity, etc)."

Putting sexism and heterowhatever in brackets was a bit of a Freudian slip showing his inner mind.

tsk tsk

Hopefully some hairy six foot trannie can put him straight on that.

Anonymous said...

"It's depressing to realize that the person who writes like this is one of the most esteemed living authors in America."

Well, he's a trained author. He's got an MFA. just imagine how much better F. Scott Fitzgerald would have been if he'd had an MFA. Clearly, THE GREAT GATSBY was the product of an amateurish, self-taught author. It just doesn't have Diaz's MFA polish.

academic charisma said...

The MFA degree was always rubbish-- I was more surprised by the debauchment of college debate. And yet conservatives have complained about higher ed since William F. Buckley Jr.'s first book, while it gets worse every year. It had taken on an aura of futility back in the Clinton Administration. Any big ideas from Niall Ferguson, Charles Murray, Richard Dawkins, Naomi Klein, Thomas Piketty on how to fix that?

Jonathan Silber said...

Do any Black writers write about anything other than Blackness and the wickedness of White people? Do they really have no interest in or knowledge of any other aspects of the world?

If the Black writers who, in our time, make a name for themselves are representative, then they belong to a race of world-class provincials.

When it comes to creating in the domain of intellect, few members of the Black race have demonstrated that they have what it takes.




Oswald Spengler said...

"Do any Black writers write about anything other than Blackness and the wickedness of White people? Do they really have no interest in or knowledge of any other aspects of the world?"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

If the only tool you have is a (black) hammer, everything looks like a (white) nail.

peterike said...

Notice that "Toni Morrison, Cherrie Moraga, Maxine Hong-Kingston, Arundhati Roy, Edwidge Danticat, Alice Walker, or Jamaica Kincaid" are all female

They are also, like Diaz, gigantic mediocrities.

After reading that article on the New Yorker website, I took a peek at some of the comments - It's pretty depressing reading.

Maybe, maybe not. The New Yorker is diligent in scrubbing comments and banning posters who show the tiniest whiff of "hate speech." I was banned twice under different names. Took about two posts each time. Then I just said the hell with it and stopped trying.

There may well be dissenting views attempting to "have a voice," but The New Yorker has no interest whatsoever in allowing anyone they disagree with to have a voice.

Anonymous said...

>>Jonathan Silber said...
"""""Do any Black writers write about anything other than Blackness and the wickedness of White people?""""""

No. Look at 99% of rap. What themes are black rappers constantly rapping about? Things that relate to them and their perspective of life.



""""Do they really have no interest in or knowledge of any other aspects of the world?"""""

No, they do not. If a branch of knowledge doesn't directly relate to them and cannot be chalked up to inherent racism, then what is the point of learning about it?

And after all, there is the old standby that since most knowledge originated from Africa, chances are that whitey stole it in some way, some how, since everyone knows that blacks invented everything anyway.



"""""If the Black writers who, in our time, make a name for themselves are representative, then they belong to a race of world-class provincials."""""

By doing this they risk condemnation by their people and branded as traitors, sellouts, Uncle Toms, as well as the ultimate of sins "that dude's too white, he's acting white!"

Notice: In their mindset, education, learning, and knowledge are tended to be lumped into the vague notion of "can't do that, 'cause that's acting white."

Acting white = learning about the world around you with the realization that it's not all about you and your particular tribal card. You have to put the card down when you're learning about the world. No cards allowed in either the science lab or the classroom at large.




"""""When it comes to creating in the domain of intellect, few members of the Black race have demonstrated that they have what it takes."""""


You don't say! Wonder why that is?

Anonymous said...

I don't doubt most MFA programs suck. Still, too bad he didnt' learn to read authors with an open mind.

Harry Baldwin said...

Do any Black writers write about anything other than Blackness and the wickedness of White people? Do they really have no interest in or knowledge of any other aspects of the world?

Lawrence Auster wondered about this too. In his essay, My Views on Race and Intelligence, he wrote: "Through numerous experiences and observations, I started to have the sense that blacks are more 'non-objective,' they understand things in a much more personal, subjective way than whites. They seem to have much less interest in knowledge or beauty for its own sake. For example, I repeatedly had the following experience. Whenever I would turn on C-SPAN and the conference being broadcast consisted of black people, literally five seconds would not pass before the speaker would say the word “black.” In other words, blackness itself was the topic of the conference. When whites get together at an academic or other type of meeting, it’s to talk about some objective area of shared interest, whether science or literature or history or politics. But, at least as far as one can judge from C-SPAN, when blacks get together to talk in a formal public setting it’s almost always to talk about themselves."

Harold said...

“In my workshop we never explored our racial identities or how they impacted our writing—at all. Never got any kind of instruction in that area—at all....”

Oh my god! I can’t believe this. I mean none at all? I just... I mean... wow, just wow.

Observer said...

A partial exception to "writing about Blackness" is furnished by African writers like Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe. Maybe it's hard to make a big deal about Blackness when everyone in your country is black.

Harold said...

I once saw a black comedian do his whole bit without mentioning race once. Hard to believe I know, but it’s true. Unfortunately, I can’t remember his name.

makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X said...

I once saw a black comedian do his whole bit without mentioning race once

Was just watching a clip of Vernon Chatman (mulatto), a minor stand-up figure on the hipster-comedy circuit, who didn't hit on race in any of his bits. German comic Martin Lawrence would definitely be a major name of recent vintage; while his films/TV are pretty ethnocentric he tends to eschew that in the cable stand-up specials I've seen, at least not the "Ever notice white people drive like this" type of jokes, usually favoring racially non-specific scatological gags instead. I think there are a few black comics out there clever enough to do non-racial routines but the problem is, the (white/brown/yellow/black) audience WANTS the forbidden fruit, i.e. racial jokes. So pandering is well nigh certain in this environment.

jody said...

gotta get me a genius fellowship.

Uncle Peregrine said...

Nobody in the Dominican Republic is Black. They are Indios. And if they're really dark they are Indios Oscuros.

ray said...

Indeed, the Writing Workshop of the overprivileged little twit Junot -- who's probly not done an honest day of work in his life -- never explored everybody's Racial Identities. Whatta tragedy eh? Cause what's a WRITING workshop for, after all, if not to solidify and metastasize Identity Politics to the student body? Certainly mere Writing takes a back seat to Junot and Friends preening under their psuedo-moralistic Diktat of Of Colorism.


No wonder he's awarded all the prize money. And still he (and the millions like him) is Oppressed. Hard done by.


The side-by-side image reveals why, too. Similarly, Michael Jackson was tremendously blessed and gifted, but all he wanted was... to be white. Michelle Robinson is among the most powerful women on the planet, but she carries anger and resentment. Why? Because she isn't white. In America, it's the wound that never heals, and never will, unless people humble themselves and accept that they were created by God as is, and resenting how they were made is resenting Him.


Don Sterling already has one foot in hell, but that's not why he was lynched in the national square. America doesn't care that he's a slumlord scumbag. He was set up and taken down, largely, because he was a white male who had something that non white males wanted. What they coveted and resented was not as much his team, or his property, as his whiteness itself.


These and endless other examples make it clear that many modern American blacks feel inferior and insecure. Women also covet, and take by force, masculinity. America believes it can solve these problems by advantaging and rewarding all the Junot Diazes, and disadvantaging white males, as compensation for personal and collective feelings of inferiority. But the divisioning only corrupts the culture and creates more entitled monsters.


Cheers.

Anonymous said...

That picture IS very Ali G. Pretty white for a black guy.

David said...

>Nobody in the Dominican Republic is Black.<

Okay.

Mr. Anon said...

The privilege of a raging class.

I have no idea why anybody would want to read anything written by someone with an MFA in creative writing, or by anyone who teaches courses in an MFA program.

Being a good writer consists of: 1.) being a good writer, and 2.) having something interesting to write about - usually by dint of having done something interesting in life and/or have a curious mind.

Great writers of yore were, for the most part, people who had done things - interesting things, adventurous things, and who had the wisdom to learn from their experiences. Today, they are English professors, which is why there are no great writers anymore.

Anonymous said...

Ali G was never black in the first place. Sacha is a white Iranian Jew.

Anonymous said...

Do the SWPLs not notice this guy is white? I mean, he looks whiter than me and I only identify as white.

fwood1 said...

A long, long time ago I read an article on the black writer Willard Motley (Knock On Any Door, Let No Man Write My Epitaph). The article criticized Motley for writing about whites.

Dave Pinsen said...

If memory serves, Diaz taught at Rutgers before getting a gig at MIT.

The uncomfortable truth is that most of the best fiction is still written by white men, and critics lower the bar for others. That's not just true of NAMs - I read IQ84 by Haruki Murakami and was pretty underwhelmed by it.

BTW, do you still not have cable, Steve? Because last night's episode of Mike Judge's Silicon Valley show was hilarious - and it mocked PC & identity politics. Which makes this tweet by Cindy Gallop (who was quoted in that article about Goldie Blox you blogged about a while back) unintentionally ironic.

Dave Pinsen said...

Sometimes writers have degrees but don't advertise them, to avoid this sort of prejudice. E.g., Thom Jones was pitched as an Everyman from the Midwest when his great volume of short stories (The Pugilist At Rest) was published. Years later, in a biographical essay, he mentioned getting an MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop, having written a failed novel, working as an ad copywriter, etc.

Anonymous said...

Ali G is a jew parodying non-blacks who adopt black culture (and and attacking said black culture.

a woman said...

All I have to say-- the guy's a real pussy.

Anonymous said...

(1) I read a couple of books by Junot D and found them pretty enjoyable = brilliant by Latino standards. I got the message Dominicans are really, really horrible - so the guy's honest.
(2) I think one of the finest novelists writing today is Zadie Smith, who's Black British. Also Ernest J. Gaines is a really fine writer - why isn't he more famous?
(3)"Great writers of yore were, for the most part, people who had done things - interesting things, adventurous things, and who had the wisdom to learn from their experiences."
I suppose mentioning Jane Austen is too easy. But did you know Stephen Crane had his adventures only after writing most of his books?

ogunsiron said...

David said...

>Nobody in the Dominican Republic is Black.<

Okay.
===
I think that Uncle Peregrine was making fun of the strong dominican tendency to deny any black ancestry.

Junot Diaz seems like a specimen of that elusive species : the autentic nonwhite rootless cosmopolitan.

Unlike a lot of nonwhites who are multiculturalists in the West but nationalists at home, this dude seems willing to inflict multiculti on everybody, even his Dominican brothers and sisters.