By Thea Lim, cross-posted from The Millions
A few weeks ago, in the The New York Observer, Nina Burleigh threw down the notion that the enormous success of Junot Díaz’s This Is How You Lose Her is undeserved. Díaz is beloved not because he is a great writer, Burleigh argues, but because Díaz is a man, and a man who delights us with tales about dashing players and their hapless women victims:
Is it the wars, the terrorism, the recession, driving the longing for a regenerated machismo that Mr. Díaz’s multi-culti cred makes acceptable again? Is it a feminist backlash?…Mr. Díaz’s wondrous bewitching of prize committees comes at a time when women writers remain wildly underrepresented in publishing, on both the reviewing and the reviewed side.
And on Twitter, multiple women writers I respect and admire, like Roxane Gay and Elliot Holt gave Díaz his due, but went on to say that Díaz’s style of confessional writings about love would not fly if written by a woman.
Normally, I’d be all over this kind of thing. I love talking about the lack of gender equity in publishing (in fact, I did for Bitch Magazine this summer). But I can’t agree that Díaz’s success is gender-based; because, yes, Díaz is a man, but he’s also a man of color. Critics who say that Díaz would not receive the same warmth if he was a woman are overlooking the factor of race.