Junot Diaz has an essay about his MFA experience in The New Yorker.
In all honesty I probably would have blown it eventually, the way I was drinking and acting out, but then at the start of my second year something happened. A massive Latino student movement sparked up on campus. That shit almost never happens but there it was, the real deal and, desperate for anything like a community, I jumped right the fuck in. That solidarity more or less saved my life. Made everything in workshop bearable because I suddenly had a group of people on campus who pulled for me, a group of people who saw me. Not a bad movement either—we scored some solids against the University and that also gives you a ton of heart. (One of our crowning triumphs, something I still take pride in, was that we were able to push through our first fiction faculty of color in the MFA program, Helena Maria Viramontes—how perfect is that? If I wrote it in a book no one would believe it—too pat—but that’s exactly what happened. Helena came to campus too late for me but not for all the other students who have since benefited from her genius. Helena was exactly the faculty I had dreamed about during my MFA; she came out of the tradition of Chicana feminist artists, of women of color artists, the tradition of resistance, and in her workshop you better believe race existed and was not an interloper or an aberration from True Literature; it’s a social force which all of us must learn to bear witness to.)
The bolded part is how I felt about Occupy, although whether we scored any solid victories is up for debate. Before it I knew exactly one person in real life who would talk about politics, and the two of us went to Occupy Atlanta’s first major General Assembly. I came back the next day; he didn’t.
The article also makes me feel somewhat better about my rejections from MFA programs. The samples I submitted both years were from an unpublished novel that is very much about race. In retrospect, I should have submitted something else, but I was proud of it and thought it was literary. But I intend to have it up on my Amazon page by the end of the year.
Lastly, check out some of these wonderful comments. I like to imagine they are from jealous, embittered MFA grads:
The ever popular yet consistently unimaginative race based criticism. If Diaz had any talent at all, any originality, he would writing something profound. He is rather a mouthpiece for the for boring and boorish. I am offended by his comments. Diaz is a racist.
I can’t believe Cornell wanted to teach their students how to write rather than to bitch and moan about race and “heteronormativity.”