Three poetry editors at The Boston Review announced their intent to resign on Tuesday, citing disagreements with the magazine’s executive editors over their decision to retain Junot Díaz as fiction editor. In a statement issued earlier in the day, TBR executive editors Deborah Chasman and Joshua Cohen described a thorough process of reviewing their relationship with the writer, who has been an editor at the magazine since 2003. They concluded that, “On the basis of what we have learned, we have decided to continue our editorial relationship with Junot.”
Díaz, who received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, has been accused by multiple women of verbal abuse and sexual harassment.
In their resignation, poetry editors Timothy Donnelly, BK Fischer, and Stefania Heim, wrote that, “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 loss of the three editors is a substantial blow to the magazine, which has undergone a major overhaul in the last two years, including a new website, a new print format, and the introduction of thematic issues. Among the issues that have been at the forefront of the magazine’s relaunch are What Nature and Poems for Political Disaster, which were edited by Donnelly, Fischer, and Heim, as well as Global Dystopias which was edited by Díaz.
In an e-mail to PW Cohen wrote, “The Boston Review poetry editors have made a remarkable contribution to Boston Review: they are amazing people and we are incredibly grateful for all that they have done. They have decided to resign effective July 1 because they disagree deeply with our decision about how to handle Boston Review’s relationship with Junot Díaz. We think we have done the right thing. But that conviction, arrived at after long reflection and many conversations [with authors], does not remove our sadness at their decision to separate.”
In their earlier statement, Chasman and Cohen outlined their steps considering whether to continue to work with Díaz. Those included consideration of whether Díaz had engaged in a “larger pattern of abusing power.” The editors also wrote that, “in the absence of an independent public investigation that we could rely on—we thought it was important to do further diligence, particularly with women writers of color in the world of literary fiction.”
In the end, they wrote that their findings did not reveal a pattern, or any justification for severing their relationship with Díaz, while also cautioning that they did not support the behavior described in the allegations.
What the editors did not do, according to Donnelly, Fischer, and Heim, was to act on the poetry editors serious concerns about the issue of #MeToo and larger power issues related to author celebrity. “Though we raised these reservations to the executive editors and asked them repeatedly to rethink their position, they went forward as planned.”