“When I think about the political unconsciousness of masculinity, it’s queerness.” That’s Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz discussing masculinity, science fiction, and writing as an act of defiance, in conversation with Hilton Als, theater critic for The New Yorker, part of a series of conversations that took place at The Strand, New York’s legendary independent book store, and I’ve been thinking about this all week.
In reading about the sort of racism Diaz grew up with (“My entire family, they’re like, ‘Racism? I just don’t like niggers.’), I see shades of some of my own extended family–in particular, my Guyanese cousins who grew up in the Bronx, whom I’ve heard say almost exactly the same thing. It has always struck me as ironic that people who’ve grown up in one of the most diverse cities on the face of the planet would perpetuate that kind of attitude, but there it is.
And when Hilton Als replies, “My brother is very light-skinned, and my West Indian grandmother would tell me to get out of the sun,” I can practically hear my Guyanese grandmother telling me the same thing. (She also told me to avoid wearing dark colors, as they would make me look darker). Als notes that the fine gradations of privilege corresponding to fine gradations in the color scale in Dominican and Haitian cultures “can be very wounding.” As far as I can tell, this kind of discrimination is quite common throughout the Caribbean.
Diaz, I believe, is something approaching a bona fide genius, and in this interview, he strikes me as a kind of miraculous person as well: one who threw off both the racism and homophobia he grew up with to become one of our most thoughtful critics of the same.
Here’s the link to the full interview: http://lithub.com/junot-diaz-hilton-als-talk-masculinity-science-fiction-and-writing-as-an-act-of-defiance/