Junot Díaz and Literary Racism

Many have heard about the writer Junot Díaz. He is, or was, in the literary world, a rock star, the Latino writer. The only Latino writer. And that’s where the racism begins.

Quick summary: Junot’s career took off in The New Yorker, when they published his short stories. He won the Pulitzer a few years ago for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. His was a rocketry-fame. Books are already being written about his books. And he’s a young guy.

In recent weeks he’s been accused of sexual harassment. And his rocket is plummeting.

This has caused a lot of stirs. I will pick one, something that many Latinx* writers are a bit reticent to share–it has never seemed right, that one writer should stand for us all.

But, that’s what happened. And yes, I blame New York. The literary world is a racist institution in and of itself. It decides which ethnicities will be published, which will not. It’s based on what they think will sell.

Junot sold. Partly because he’s good, and partly because they promoted the shit out of his work. But I know a lot of good writers who are Mexican-American, Guatemalan-American, Salvadoran-American, Nicaraguan-American, who are not getting published by the big-dog publishing houses of New York.

Well, fuck New York.

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Some of the Latinx writers I’m reading this summer. Not one of them was published by New York.

This racist setup affects you, the book-lover. You’re not getting the opportunity to find new Latinx voices who are writing about their lives today, everything from what it’s like to be transgender in, say, the Salvadoran community, to what it feels like to be called a racist and a murderer by a U.S. president.

On my podcast, I’m bringing as many new, young Latinx writers to the public as I can. I’m reading new people’s works, and finding a treasure trove of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction coming out of our many cultures.

I am highlighting them, and the publishing houses that publish and promote them. Because their works deserve all the attention they can get. And they should get as much as Junot did. If not more.

 

*”Latinx” is the more inclusive term, rather than “Latino.” 

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