Sydney festival rocked by harassment claims
AN AMERICAN Pulitzer Prize-winning author has abruptly pulled out of the Sydney Writers’ Festival after another female writer accused him of sexual harassment during a live session.
Junot Diaz, 49, whose novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was awarded a Pulitzer in 2008, was part of a panel at the festival on Friday when Zinzi Clemmons stood up and quizzed him on the way he had treated her six years ago when she was a graduate student at Columbia.
Clemmons, whose debut novel What We Lose was published in 2017, then repeated her sexual harassment accusations against him on social media, which triggered other accusations of abusive and inappropriate behaviour by Diaz, according to the New York Times.
On Saturday, Sydney Writers Festival issued a statement saying the headline guest would be withdrawing from the week-long festival.
“Following the allegations of inappropriate and aggressive behaviour towards Zinzi Clemmons and other women, Mr Diaz has withdrawn from his remaining sessions at Sydney Writers’ Festival.
“In his recent New Yorker magazine essay, Mr Diaz wrote, ‘Eventually the past finds you’. As for so many in positions of power, the moment to reckon with the consequences of past behaviour has arrived,” the statement said.
“Sydney Writers’ Festival is a platform for the sharing of powerful stories: urgent, necessary and sometimes difficult. Such conversations have never been more timely. We remain committed to ensuring they occur in a supportive and safe environment for our authors and audiences alike.” Mr Diaz was due to speak on a panel on Saturday titled The Politics of Empathy, and on Sunday about his children’s book Islandborn with Australian Children’s Laureate Morris Gleitzman.
He has also cancelled an event at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre on Monday.