From Author to Narrator: Analyzing Junot Díaz’s Presumed Misogyny in “Monstro”

Grace hug

Junot Díaz, New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner, has written a variety of works focused on gender and sex. However, one work that may not be the first thing a reader would define as “feminist literature” is Díaz’s “Monstro.” “Monstro” takes place in a newly-apocalyptic world where an infectious disease resembling black mold called “La Negrura” is spreading. The infection takes over the individual’s body with a debilitating, black fungus. The disease is part of the main setting in the story; however, there is a large focus on the relationship between the narrator and a girl named Mysty. Mysty’s role in Díaz’s “Monstro,” as well as the way she is described by the narrator, reflect the controversies of Díaz’s presumed misogyny presented not only in his other works, but his real-life actions as well.

Before diving into “Monstro” and the themes it presents under a feminist lens, it is important to understand Junot Díaz not only as a writer, but a person as well. There are many works Díaz has written that have a heavier focus on sex and gender than “Monstro.” Some of the most popular, and controversial ones include This Is How You Lose Her, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Drown. All three of these novels have received backlash from critics, calling Díaz a misogynist because of the characters he has written. Adding to the controversy, Díaz was accused of sexual and verbal harassment towards a few female writers in the peak-time of the “Me Too” movement. In July of 2018, Zinzi Clemmons came out and claimed that Díaz cornered her in a stairwell and “forcibly kissed” her (Romo 1). On Twitter, Clemmons posted a tweet, writing, “I’m far from the only one he’s done this 2. I refuse to be silent anymore.”

Following the traction from her account, other writers such as Carmen Maria Machado and Monica Byrne came forward with their own experiences with Díaz. While not physically assaulted, they were still subjected to his misogyny through verbal actions. This prompted Díaz to acknowledge inappropriate behavior he participated in in his past, but he was careful not to mention anything specific. In a statement provided by Díaz’s literary agent, he stated, “I take responsibility for my past. I am listening to and learning from women’s stories in this essential and overdue cultural movement. We must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries.” With his controversy, questions have been raised that cause a more critical look at Díaz’s writing and the insight they may bring to him as a person.

As Díaz’s allegations grew more prominent, teachers began debating whether or not his writings should be taught. While a talented writer, his work now raised questions. As Nadia Celis, the Director of Bowdoin College’s Latin American Studies planned to teach Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, it seemed as though the story’s themes of toxic masculinity and abuse of power structure became true. Although MIT cleared Díaz of sexual misconduct allegations, questions and controversy surrounding his behavior still exist today. Díaz had been accused of misogyny before because of his writing, but these allegations riled his audience up even further. Díaz has claimed countless times that his characters may show misogynistic behavior, but he himself is not a misogynist. Because of the allegations, this claim can be questioned and has been by those who analyze Díaz’s work.

Although “Monstro” is not primarily seen as a work focused on feminism, it does speak to the ideas of feminism and the troubles of misogyny. The narrator of the story boldly states from the very beginning, “So what was I doing, if not helping my mom or watching the apocalypse creep in? Like I told you: I was chasing a girl” (Díaz 2). The world is seemingly coming to an end and the narrator is focused on a girl; Mysty. The narrator speaks about Mysty in ways that contradict one another. At first, the narrator speaks highly of Mysty and sees her as his dream girl, saying that “Well, I certainly dreamed big with Mysty. In those days she was my Wonder Woman, my Queen of Jaragua…” (Díaz 7). While reading the first half of this story, the reader may begin to question what the author, Díaz, truly thinks about women due to how he portrays Mysty. If the reader is aware of his other pieces of literature, as well as his controversy, they may be left confused. Because Díaz has been labeled as a misogynist by several critics, the narrator’s descriptions of Mysty, in the beginning, are difficult to fully understand. As the story continues, Díaz’s misogynistic approach to the narrator’s character becomes more clear.

The narrative begins to change a bit, as the narrator is heavily focused on the beauty of Mysty. The narrator describes her as tall and “copper colored.” She has long, black hair. She is curvy while simultaneously being athletic. Although focusing on a woman’s beauty is not inherently misogynistic, and in fact can be seen as a way to praise women, this is the start of understanding the narrator’s true intentions with Mysty. The reader learns more about her appearance before they know of her personality or background. A focus on a woman’s physical self, and only her physical self, is objectifying as the woman is seen only for her body which is of less value than a woman’s intelligence or personality. It’s only later in the story that her character is described for her personality rather than her physical attributes, which seems to be the only reason the narrator is interested in Mysty after all. Through the words of the narrator, it becomes apparent why Díaz has been labeled as a misogynist. If the narrator only cares about Mysty’s physical attributes, plainly, he is objectifying her. This objectification can lead readers to question the character of the author himself, rather than just the narrator, especially considering his past with female writers.

The next description of Mysty can be broken down into several parts for analysis. The first section of the quote states, “Dear dear Mysty. Beautiful and bitchy and couldn’t wait to be away from the D.R. A girl who didn’t let anyone push her around, who once grabbed a euro-chick by the hair because the bitch tried to cut her in line,” (Díaz 9). This quote in itself makes the reader question how the narrator actually feels about Mysty. He calls her beautiful, and follows it up with a derogatory term directly pointed in the direction of misogyny. Then, he seems to be admiring her because she won’t let anyone push her around. This makes the reader question, does the narrator like Mysty for her looks, as he seemed to be so infatuated with in the beginning? Does he like her for the fact that she doesn’t let people push her around?

As the quote continues, the narrator makes it seem as though he finds Mysty to be a girl full of flaws and not much else, now saying that she, “wasn’t really a deep person. I don’t think I ever heard her voice an opinion about art or politics or say anything remotely philosophical…Chick was as much a loner as I was,” (Díaz 9). Perhaps the narrator likes Mysty because they are both flawed in the same way–they are loners. However, prior to that statement, the narrator digs into how Mysty wasn’t deep; she wasn’t smart. The narrator seems to pick and choose what he likes about Mysty, rather than just liking her, flaws and all. This demonstrates Díaz’s misogynistic approach because the narrator is only willing to love the “glamorous” parts of Mysty, but the second she is flawed, his admiration changes. The next part of the quote states, “She never bought anything for anyone, didn’t do community work,” (Díaz 10). In this specific line, the narrator is implying that Mysty is selfish because she does not do things for others.

The final part of the quote states, “…and when she saw children she always stayed far away. Ánimales, she called them—and you could tell she wasn’t joking” (Díaz 10). This section of the text is very interesting when it comes to feminism. For a long time, women were seen as beings that were meant to bear and take care of children. In this quote, the narrator tells the audience how Mysty relates children to “Ánimales” and stays far away from them. Perhaps the narrator finds Mysty undesirable as a long-term partner because of this. She falls away from the “traditional” role of women because of her dislike of children.

Towards the end of the story, the narrator admits he knew nothing about women and that he didn’t deserve a girl like Mysty. However, what the narrator truly thinks about Mysty is unclear throughout the entirety of the story. The audience knows that the narrator desires Mysty, but he constantly contradicts himself by being critical of her. Then, he contradicts his criticism by saying he doesn’t deserve her. Was this internal conflict of physical desire versus personality an intentional choice, or did it simply reflect what Díaz himself feels?

Throughout the entirety of “Monstro,” what the narrator truly thinks about Misty is unclear, but Díaz’s presumed misogyny shines through when the narrator makes claims such as Mysty not being intelligent, or that she is selfish and has no friends. There are several instances in “Monstro” where Díaz’s writing, through the narrator, can reflect misogynistic behavior. Although it may never be clear whether Díaz is a true misogynist or not, through his writing, behavior and actions, it is clear as to why he has been so widely perceived as a misogynist.

Works Cited

Andres, Kaitlin. “The F-Word in The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao.” First Class: A  Journal of First-Year Composition 2016.1 (2016): 7. https://dsc.duq.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=first-class.

Díaz, Junot. “Monstro.” The New Yorker, 28 May 2012, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/06/04/monstro.

Porter, Tom. “To Teach or Not to Teach? Nadia Celis on #MeToo and Junot Díaz.” Bowdoin, 14 Oct. 2019,
https://www.bowdoin.edu/news/2019/10/to-teach-or-not-to-teach-nadia-celis-on-metoo-and-junot- d%C3%ADaz.html.

Romo, Vanessa. “MIT Clears Junot Díaz of Sexual Misconduct Allegations.” NPR, NPR, 21 June 2018,


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Beginnings and Endings: A Critical Edition Copyright © 2021 by Liza Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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