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Editors at Boston Review resign over decision to keep Junot Díaz on staff

One of the three poetry editors who quit said a letter from the top editors defending their decision made it clear that "it was time to go."
Junot Diaz
Junot Díaz at his MIT office in 2013. Essdras M Suarez / Boston Globe via Getty Images

Three editors at the Boston Review have resigned in protest of the magazine’s decision to retain Junot Díaz as fiction editor despite recent allegations of sexual misconduct against the celebrated author.

Several women accused Díaz, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," of misconduct and misogyny last month. The accusations came soon after Díaz wrote an essay for The New Yorker describing his experiences of sexual assault as a child.

The editors in chief of the Boston Review, Deborah Chasman and Joshua Cohen, wrote a public letter last Tuesday detailing their reasons for keeping Díaz on staff at the magazine, which focuses mainly on politics and literature. They said they did not believe that the accusations revealed a “larger pattern of abusing power.”

Additionally, they argued, “the objectionable conduct described in the public reports does not have the kind of severity that animated the #MeToo movement.”

Timothy Donnelly, one of the editors who resigned, said in an email to NBC News that Díaz offered to take a voluntary leave of absence following the allegations, but that this offer was dismissed. In an email, Chasman said there was "no need for a leave" because the magazine had closed fiction submissions before the allegations broke, and Díaz was not actively editing during that time.

"When [the editors in chief] decided instead not only to maintain business as usual — to keep the status quo — but also to issue a statement we found objectionable in many respects, we knew it was time to go," Donnelly wrote.

Later that day, Donnelly, B.K. Fischer and Stefania Heim, all poetry editors, released a statement announcing their resignation, effective July 1.

“What most distresses us are the letter’s apparent arbitration of what constitutes inclusion in the #MeToo movement and its lack of attentiveness to power dynamics in a star-driven media and publishing landscape,” the statement reads.

But Chasman and Cohen pushed back against this characterization of their letter.

“We did not intend that to mean we know exactly what #MeToo means,” Chasman told NBC News. “We say that there are plenty of things to discuss about power and #MeToo that go beyond traditional understandings. Really, it was just kind of a signal that this was not a Harvey Weinstein kind of situation. We’re not trying to arbitrate the movement, that’s absolutely not true.”

Chasman added that she and Cohen did their “due diligence” in contacting writers in the fiction program at the Boston Review and other literary professionals regarding the allegations, and determined that the results did not warrant ending the editorial relationship with Díaz. Chasman did not elaborate on whom they spoke to, citing confidentiality concerns.

Díaz did not immediately respond to requests for comment.