Clarification – I Did Not Fuck Junot to “Get Ahead” You Fucking Idiots

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This was the Junot Diaz I knew. We were both 26. He had not power then.

These past couple of days have reminded me of the many reasons why I took down my original blog post about Junot Diaz more than 10 years ago. The horrendous backlash and attacks that come when you stand up for yourself as a woman, the “slut” shaming that goes on if you admit to having had sex at all, the anger. I had managed to build a peaceful, small life for myself in the past couple of years, a life where, no, I wasn’t in the spotlight as a writer anymore, and that was okay. It was nice, actually. It was really nice not to have the adrenaline of anger bubbling up whenever someone who did not know me misunderstood me and attacked me, which is what happens when you’re “famous” I guess. It sucks. People fucking suck. Not all of them. A lot of you are cool. But the ones who aren’t cool are goddamned dangerous.

A few of you have lashed out at me because of your interpretation of something I wrote in my original post. That’s probably partly my fault, because when the Washington Post mentioned the piece I wrote they also made the same assumption. Maybe I was in such a rush to get the piece out that I didn’t word it in a way that fucking idiots would be incapable of misinterpreting in the worst possible way. But probably not.

So I am going to clarify what I meant.

When I met Junot, he and I were equals and he was in no position to help me and I was not then, or ever, the kind of woman who thought she needed help and certainly not the kind who would fuck someone for a favor.

Let me repeat that. Just in case some of you dumbasses read that and somehow heard “Alisa fucked Junot for her career.” When I met Junot, he and I were equals and he was in no position to help me and I was not then, or ever, the kind of woman who thought she needed help and certainly not the kind who would fuck someone for a favor.

I did not meet Junot last year. Or 10 years ago. I met him 22 years ago, in 1996. To understand my story without fucking it up you have to imagine Junot before he was a fucking star.

We were equals. I was actually the one helping him, by writing about him in a major newspaper, and it wasn’t done for sex.

It was 1996. His first collection of short stories had just come out. He was not famous. I was not famous. I was the youngest writer ever hired on staff at the Boston Globe, and I had been hired directly into a coveted position as a longform literary nonfiction feature writer. I was a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, where I had been thought of as a gifted literary writer, referred to in recommendations by one professor as “a pugilist whose mind gives off sparks like flint on steel.” Upon graduating from J-School I had job offers from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald and Boston Globe. By the time I was 28, I was named the No. 1 magazine essayist in the nation by the Sunday Magazine Editors Association.

Many of you seem to think I am narcissistically bragging when I mention facts about my writing career. I’m pretty sure none of you do the same for an egotist like Junot Diaz. But, you know, penis.

I’m not fucking bragging. I’m REPORTING FACTS. I’m happy to honestly list all of the ways in which I suck as a person. I can’t draw. I’m not good at laundry. I curse in front of children. I overeat. I cancel plans at the last minute because even though I wish I were the kind of person who likes hanging out with other people, I mostly prefer hanging out at home with my dog and my cat and my garden, and this is mostly because people far too often suck. Including me. I suck at lots of things. I’m really crap at just about everything.

Except writing.

I am a good fucking writer. I was a good fucking writer when I was a child. And I’m a good fucking writer now, as a middle aged woman. If it makes you angry that I feel entitled to acknowledge a thing about myself that is true, if me saying I’m a good writer when I’m actually a good writer makes you feel uncomfortable, if me saying I’m a good writer inspires you to send me an email or to comment on this blog telling me to pipe down and be modest and stop being a narcissist, here is what I have to tell you: Fuck off. You don’t like confident women, and that’s your fucking problem. For decades I was bullied by people like you, into minimizing myself, into taking up less space so YOU would be comfortable. For decades I gave away my power and doubted myself and felt scared and insecure and questioned my own interpretation of reality. I will not let you invalidate me anymore. I will not make myself smaller in public just to make you comfortable. Your comfort means shit to me now. Now, I am 49 and I don’t need you to like me.

In 1996, Junot Diaz was not the Pulitzer winner. He was a nerdy dude from New York who was on book tour. A press release came across my desk. The paper was not even going to write about him at all. I had to convince editors he mattered. I had to convince editors he wrote in English. And I did this because his book caught my eye for its Spanish surname, and I read it, and he was great. If I hadn’t been at the paper, there would not have been a Boston Globe piece about that book at all. I was part of the early media coverage that helped him eventually become well-known enough to be nominated for the Pulitzer at all.

So, no, I did not see him, then, as someone who could or would help my career. My career at the time was better than his. I was doing just fucking fine.

I fell in love with Junot’s writing, and I felt him to be a kindred spirit. That’s all that happened. I wasn’t some young thing hoping he’d help me. He wasn’t some super powerful man on the prowl. Not in 1996. I was his equal. That was how I saw it, and that was how I thought he saw it. When I told him I was interested in transitioning at some point to fiction writing, it was as a well-known literary feature writer for one of the top newspapers on earth – and I was only 26 years old. I had been working on a novel. I told him about it. He said he’d love to read it. I believed him. He came over. I thought he was coming to read my book. And while he didn’t force himself on me, I had not expected him to seduce me. I was flattered when he did, because I had a crush on him. End of story.

When I mentioned Junot asking to have sex with me, and, later, gently offering in the way friends do, to introduce me to people at The New Yorker, it was to show two things.

  • One: That I THOUGHT I was involved with someone I thought was my boyfriend and that he, like many boyfriends, was being supportive, and that he was being supportive because he liked my writing. That’s how I took that whole situation.
  • Two: It took me a while to understand that this was not Junot’s reality about the situation, at all. In time, I understood he saw me the way too fucking many of YOU idiots see me, which is that he thought he was worth more than I was, and assumed I agreed, and his offer wasn’t supportive, it was intended to be coercive, so he could feel powerful and dominate me.

Both realities were true. Mine was true for me. His was true for him.

I am lucky to have been raised by a feminist father. A feminist Cuban father, who was my greatest champion. My dad is a professor of Latin American sociology and history, and New Mexico history and sociology. It had never even occurred to me, at 26, that a man could or would think as Junot did – or as you fucking idiots who think I “exchanged sex for literary favors” do.

I have NEVER doubted my writing ability and I never FUCKING NEEDED Junot to do me any favors.

When I say he never had any intention of doing as he said, with regards to introducing me to his editor at the New Yorker, it was not in a tone of disappointment – I was NOT saying “I fucked him and he didn’t even get me published wah wah wah.” OH MY FUCKING GOD. I was saying, and read this next part slowly so you really understand it, that Junot thinks women think he’s a king who will dole out favors and he therefore promises favors to get women into bed and then doesn’t follow through.

One thing about writing fiction is that you must be able to take on the perspective of different characters. The idiots who think I fucked Junot Diaz for my career are incapable of taking my perspective at that time. They only see his. Too simplistic.

From my perspective I was a writer, he was a writer. We were both really good at writing. I was excited to be dating a man who I thought was my equal. I did not know he thought any differently about it until I had known him long enough to realize he was full of shit and using me. I never, ever, ever thought loving Junot Diaz would “help” my career, nor did I think I needed help. Then, as now, I believed myself to be a badass who would succeed all on her own. And I did.

The worst part about speaking out publicly about being used by people like this is the judgment from idiots. To get through it, I go back to one of the many wise things my father always tells me: “People can only understand what you’re saying, to the level of their own evolution.”

And while I am grateful for the kind responses I’ve gotten here, I am dismayed by how many of you are still dismally un-evolved, incapable of comprehending what actually went down. Dismayed, by not surprised.

What a fucking world.

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34 thoughts on “Clarification – I Did Not Fuck Junot to “Get Ahead” You Fucking Idiots

  1. I’m also dismayed at the gross (deliberate?) misinterpretation of your posts about Junot Diaz. I’m not confused in the least. I never heard you describe anything like a crime or crimibal intent. What I do hear is a level of hostility- from him- that can best be described as misogyny, if in fact he has a pattern or treating women poorly, for which there is evidence that he has.
    I hate it that you are being raked over the coals, by sone, and being re-traumatized. So I just wanted to say that this Latina, aspiring writer, hears you, sees you and honors your truth and courage. Stay strong.

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    1. Thank you for saying this. It means more than you might realize. There are so many tools in the box labeled “how to shut bitches up when they claim their own power.” I won’t let them silence me anymore. Ever.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I have been reading your stuff for more than 10 yrs and love your pro women, self loving attitude. I am so sorry that your revelation was recieved like this. Not surprised, really, because unfortunately so many people and sadder yet so many women still feel like they have to blame themselves and other women for being used, or can’t handle a woman who is good at something and wants to say it or sing it from the rooftops. They cannot even compliment a woman on anything without feeling threatened.
    And Junot is an animal.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it’s fucking nuts that a woman can’t acknowledge that she’s good at her chosen career. Like we’re supposed to say, oh yeah, I have spent my entire adult life doing this but really I’m not that great, don’t pay attention to me, I’m sure a man could do it better. Good for you for not playing that stupid game.

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    1. Yeah. Growing up, I was often described by certain family members thusly: “That Alisa, she has a mind of her own.” This was said with a sad roll of the eyes and a mild shaking of the head, as if a girl having her own mind were a terrible thing. I also got asked, with some frequency, “Who do you think you are?” by same family members, any time I had an opinion they didn’t like. These messages cut deep, and it has taken me five decades to get rid of that loop in my head that said I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, talented enough, to think I mattered.

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  4. You’re awesome, and I’m ashamed I haven’t read more of your writing until now. Off to Amazon to buy your book. Can’t wait to read more of your honest, kick-ass writing

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  5. You rock! I admire both your talent for writing and your tenacity to bellow the truth . You are heard , believed and supported.
    Keep writing !!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This post was being used in a comment thread in some attempt to discredit you but made me really enjoy your writing and perspectives even more. I support your success and will be buying your work.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. …yours has been the only engaged analysis that moves beyond the personal (engaged white patriarchy, trauma, intention). I think you have something important to say. I really loved the broken glass piece. So many people walking around lost in their analysis of “where are we going with this #metoo moment” need your clarity. Thank you for being brave.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You were not nominated for a Pulitzer. You should remove this from your bio. Such fakery will cause you great embarrassment. You were an entrant who was not chosen as a nominee. (The nominees are the same as the finalists. It’s in the Pulitzer FAQ.) Newspapers can’t nominate. The jury nominates. Nominees are listed on the Pulitzer website, so anyone can look this up. You should remove this fron your bio in all places immediately to avoid embarrassment.

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    1. Hi Annabel. Thanks for pointing out my mistake. I didn’t realize there was a difference between having all the editors at your newspaper – the largest daily in New England – choose your feature story, out of the thousands that ran in the paper that year, as one they would SUBMIT to the Pulitzer committee that year for consideration, and being NOMINATED. Heavens. I will change it on all my bios and save myself the terrible embarrassment of having had the audacity to think for all these years that I was good enough to be nominated for a specious prize given out to obviously amazing TRUE writers, like Junot Diaz. Also, fantastic that you saw fit, in the midst of everything that is going on with Diaz and the dozens of women coming forward to talk about his abuses, to take the time to helpfully comment on my personal blog. I’m not sure what I was thinking, putting myself out there as a good writer when, clearly, this mistake on my part was pure delusion, just like my belief in myself. I am super grateful there are assholes like you out there, policing women to make sure we don’t sprout minds of our own or think we’re special. It is very important that you use the empowerment of the #metoo moment as a platform for discrediting me by pointing out a semantic error that has clearly discombobulated you far more than Diaz’s relentless assholery. Peace out.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You are my hero with this one! Like the new friend in my head Alisa!! Aside from dripping with sarcasm, I’m the family member “with the mind of her own.” I’m always telling ppl I left my house to be great today. I constantly reference my 7th grade history teacher Mrs. Adams. She would yell at us Mediocrity! She was NOT here for it and neither are we! Carry on Queen! I’m fighting on your side!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I say this not being dismissive at all, but this was the first piece of yours I’ve ever read. I’m sorry that you had to write this to respond to trolls online, by my goodness I admire the hell out of your writing and will be following this blog.

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    1. Hi, Robin. Thanks for the kind words. And don’t worry. Not many people in the world of “serious lettres” has heard of me. That’s by design. And not my design. 😉

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  10. I’m sorry you are goin through all this and being retraumatized. But I want you to know I see you, read you, hear you and I believe you. As someone who has been through sexual violence and as someone who has experienced different scenarios of patriarchal power dynamics within my own industry/field – I am grateful for your courage and for speaking out on this. Sending you love and gratitude.

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  11. Dear Alisa, I read a piece of yours many years ago. It was a fictionalized description of an encounter with a writer that I assumed to be JD. I vividly remember the ending because I had an eerily similar experience with him. Well, not the true ending, which was about the narrator sending something that I am not going to mention so as not to spoil it for others into his general direction (that was funny!), but the way the Dominican writer leaves the narrator. I would love to read that piece again.
    I am not famous by any means nor have anything to do with literature and my encounter with him had nothing to do with colleges or newspaper. Now, I did meet a young reporter for the Santa Fe New Mexican who complained about having been somewhat harassed by him. Thanks for your beautiful writing!

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  12. Do people forget what it’s like to be young? You were both single, intelligent and attracted to one another. Things happen. Your talent doesn’t depend on any man, your shown that time after time. I just hate that people put you in this situation where you feel you have to justify what younger Alisa did. I only discovered Junot Diaz this past year as he was discussed in my graduate short story class. The whole situation is just f-ed up. But again I hate that there are people out there that put you on the defensive. Love ya lady!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I did not read your original post that way. And if there is one silver lining to all of this–your posts brought me to your writing, which I was unfamiliar with. I’m ordering copies right now. I can’t wait to read about ballsy, funny, sarcastic, independent, professional Latinas. Thanks for speaking up, then and now. I’m sorry it took this long for you to be heard.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you. I read and reread both your posts about Diaz today and … I don’t have words yet. But I’m so, so glad you’re saying this. Sorry, I’m still processing everything and even now self-censoring my thoughts, in great part (I’m realizing) because of being told to shut up my entire life.

    BTW, the link to your “official website” at the bottom of your wiki page leads visitors to a furniture blog instead of this site. I guess whoever put in the URL screwed up and wrote dot com instead of dot org at the end of your name.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. .Having a Dominican father but raised by strong women – Cuban mother, grandmother and great aunt, I was drawn to JD’s writing because he accurately depicted the way I have seen men raised in the Dominican culture (which I find masogenistic and completely repellent) treat women. It is upsetting to me that at this stage we as independent, liberated women are blaming men for choices we have made. Yes we all have a vision of what we want in a man/woman and a soulmate especially when we are young. But to not have things work out and then carry an anger over our disappointment – inspite of so much success is to give away too much power. Keep it moving! Hopefully the next one is/ was better and continues to be on our personal journey. Thankfully this is not the same as sexual assault or abuse and should not be treated as such. This does not excuse JD’s behavior. He acted not unlike – surprise – a recurring character type from his books but he should not be made to suffer professionally with regards to your case.
    I am looking forward to reading your work. I have read somewhere in this commentary a derogatory statement about being referred to as a female writer, chick lit, Latinx writer. etc. Let’s stop abiding by the rules set up by others. We are pretty fabulous, have a lot to offer and should celebrate that – whatever you want to call it.
    All the best
    are

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    1. I never said he sexually abused me. He did, however, force himself on another writer. My point was that he went out of his way to damage my reputation and career as a form of revenge for me not thinking his novel was all that great. I was saying that I warned the world about him being a dick years ago. And now he’s molested a 26 year old, forced himself in her. You worry about his career, but what about hers? Mine? Stop protecting this rat.

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