Junot Díaz is making the rounds for This is How You Lose Her, which includes a thoughtful and funny discussion hosted last week by Harvard Book Store and The Boston Review. It's available to you and me through a lengthy video, and while its wholly worthwhile, I want to highlight how Díaz responds early on to a question about racism in Boston (which often shows up in his writing). It's no joke.
While racism manifests all over the place, it's layered in Boston with a particular smugness and skepticism that is difficult to point to because it's omnipresent. Of course, I have the vantage point of a former Boston resident who is white, but it was obvious enough that it undercut my ability to feel like the city could be my long-term home. Díaz points out that Boston has the lowest rate of retention for black and Latino students of any college town in the country. "People vote with their feet," he said, "... as it stands, people aren't fucking sticking around."
Boston still cloaks itself, it still protects itself, it doesn't want to face reality ... Boston is still in this place where, 'I am skeptical that there is racism.' That is wild to me.
He goes on to tie this way of thinking to the universities' hold on the city --- the limits on what they pay City Hall, the utter protection of students -- and how it creates a split structure that leaves the people in town with...
...this really distorted local nationalism which is predicated on sports, a suspicion and an anger towards people of color and immigration, because its easier to do that than to attack the people in power who have really, kind of, taken away this city from the locals, man.
And I feel like that's what we're really talking about when we're talking about Boston. It's investment towards kinds of discourses, its investment toward this kind of townie racism, is all about its inability to address whose really got their fucking boot on their neck. It's ain't a fucking bunch of people of color in this town.
Díaz also talks about how America "speaks apocalypse." And he makes a nice mention of the underrated writer Michael Martone, as well as Krys Lee, whose book Drifting House I shimmered on about over at The Daily Beast.
In his discussion of the character of Yunior, who he 'pursues relentlessly,' Díaz talks about the large lack of literature dealing fully with masculinity.
I tend to find most maculinities that are being represented in literature tend to be very feeble and tend to be very inaccurate. And by feeble I don't mean in the sense of strong, you know, or virile but feeble in the sense that they don't seem to in any way correlate with what I've experienced and what I've seen. I think masculinity, because it's the site of enormous privilege, has obfuscatory powers, and people tend to be blinded by its kind of full dimensions, the different levels it operates on...
.... Most of the men that I read in most literatures come out sounding like -- nothing like the dudes I grew up with or worked with, yeah? They can get our crimes right but they can't get much else right. And I think that the crimes are not enough, yeah? 'Cause the intervention at the level of crime keeps the masculinity alive.
Onwards. Watch now.
Hat tip on the video to Daniel Pritchard.