Maybe the most powerful infectious thing is the act of speaking the truth.
Ava means voice, it means bird, it means waterfall. Breath of life. Ava/Eva is our first mother. I’m on the board of the social profit organization, Ava and Mythic Imagination is a partner. Ava works with creativity as a path for women, primarily from the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East, to finding a voice, in both the inner and outer sense. I’ll be writing about Ava and its projects, as well as a new film that is coming out September 29th made by the founder of Ava, about the honor-killing of a Kurdish girl in Britain — the final silencing of a woman’s voice.
But today, I want to listen to a man’s voice. Junot Diaz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. His new book, This Is How You Lose Her, carries on the life of his character Yunior from his first book, Drown. The focus seems to be on Yunior grappling with his many infidelities. This is an excerpt from an interview with Diaz done by NPR. I’m reprinting it here because I do not think I have ever heard this level of honesty from a man. As he speaks about the evolution of compassion necessary for Yunior and for men, it opens my heart to compassion for Yunior, Diaz and men because in finally admitting how it is, the sorrow of being so miserably educated, so miserably constricted, so miserably deprived of feeling–and of real access to women — becomes an opening to a new depth of connection. Imagination is the key.
On how Yunior sees his infidelity
“The progress of the character is … really interesting because, you know, when you encounter Yunior at the beginning, he thinks that, you know, all he has to do is sort of ‘fix the relationship.’ And what I mean by that is that if you really, really had that compassion that this is a person, this is a human being that I’ve hurt, he wouldn’t be so quick to scrub away his crimes. And I think that by the end of the book we see a Yunior that’s completely different. The crime, the pain he has caused, the betrayal of a relationship [with] this woman, he can’t escape [it]. And in some ways [it] hits him in the heart with an almost fatal blow. And it’s a very, very different character at the end as far as his compassion than who we’re introduced to at the beginning. … I think that that’s the most significant thing in the development of a person, especially a boy.”
“I grew up in a world, [a] very New Jersey, American, Dominican, immigrant, African-American, Latino world. And, you know, I went to school and it was basically the same. I went to college; it was basically the same, where largely, I wasn’t really encouraged to imagine women as fully human. I was in fact pretty much — by the larger culture, by the local culture, by people around me, by people on TV — encouraged to imagine women as something slightly inferior to men. And so I think that a lot of guys, part of our journey is wrestling with, coming to face, our limited imagina[tion] and growing in a way that allows us not only to imagine women as fully human, but to imagine the things that we do to women — that we often do blithely, without thinking, we just sort of shrug off — as actually deeply troubling and as hurting another human being. And this seems like the simplest thing. A lot of people are like, ‘Really, that’s like a huge leap of knowledge, of the imagination?’ But for a lot of guys, that is.”
On the Dominican women in the book who warn against getting involved with a Dominican man and how that reflects a larger reality
“You know, always the joke is who’s making that accusation? And I just think that for the group of women who are making that accusation, Dominican men are standing in as the [everyday] male. But look, bro, are you telling me that if I get all the women of the United States and gather them all together and then say, ‘Do you highly recommend American men?’ that you’re going to get, like, a sterling recommendation? That these women are going to be like, ‘Oh, yes, American men are fantastic! These dudes have done so well by us.’ I think that every culture, if you got all the women of that culture together and said, ‘Grade your men,’ I don’t think any country — even a place like Denmark, which has this famous sort of gender equality — would give their men anything higher than F as a collective. And that’s a reality.”