"let Me Confess": Confession, Complicity, and #MeToo in Junot Díaz's This is How You Lose Her and "the Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma"

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Abstract

Confession plays a crucial yet ambivalent role in Junot Díaz's fiction and paratexts. While scholarship has emphasized confession as a powerful means of witnessing male misbehavior, the #MeToo era urges readers to question who or what, beyond mere representation, confession serves. I suggest that protagonist Yunior's compulsive confessions of lying, cheating and womanizing in This is How You Lose Her (2012) expose how his sense of self is split between an authoritarian Dominican past and an oppressive US present. Yunior's macho behavior conjures the historical specter of Dominican strongman dictator, Trujillo, while his confessions make readers complicit in his immorality, echoing Trujillo's manipulation of information for control. Forging this uneasy textual intimacy between reader and narrator further underscores mainstream expectations, in the US present, that minority writers "confess"their intimate lives for entertainment, conscribing how and what they express. Yet Yunior's narrative also conscribes female representation by centering-and then absolving-male misbehavior through a confession that looks like a dialogue (addressing "you") but in fact functions as a monologue. I also interrogate Díaz's authorial interviews and apply Lili Loofbourow's idea of the "male self-pardon"to Díaz's autobiographical essay "The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma"(2018), in which he reveals surviving childhood sexual assault and confesses that he subsequently "hurt"intimate female partners. I argue that confession-whether Yunior's or Díaz's-perpetuates a masculine monologue that marginalizes women's voices. Masculine confessions reach for intimacy but fail when they cannot imagine women as fully as men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-50
Number of pages27
JournalMELUS
Volume46
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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