|Dominican Person of Color|
APRIL 30, 2014
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.
When I was in my mid-twenties I decided to apply for an MFA in creative writing. ...
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.
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. ...
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|
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
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
2007 Los Angeles Times Book Prize (Fiction) finalist for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
2008 Fellow of the American Academy Rome Prize
2008 Dayton Literary Peace Prize (Fiction) for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
2008 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award (Fiction) for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
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 
2012 Publishers Weekly Best Books, This is How You Lose Her
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
2012 Story Prize, finalist
2013 Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award, winner, "Miss Lora" from This is How You Lose Her
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
2013 Honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Letters), Brown University
2013 Norman Mailer Prize (Distinguished Writing)