I love Junot Diaz. I think he is an amazing and imaginative writer and I like to read everything of his that I can get my hands on, so it is no surprise that I read the interview he gave to NPR this week. And what really caught my attention was his characterization of men through the eyes of women. Diaz says
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.
If you’re familiar with any of Diaz’s work, you’ll be able to see a parallel between the above quote and the characters in his stories—basically, his male characters are always jerks because that’s what he believes women see. Author Craig Nova comes to a similar conclusion about the characterization of men in fiction, except he laments it. Nova complains that male characters are rarely the good guys anymore, and are more often characterized as dead-beats and dogs. But in his own life, Nova can think of plenty of great male role models.
And as I think about Nova’s words, I am hard pressed to find a completely stand up, great guy in any of my recent reading. But the world isn’t full of men who are just jerks, so why aren’t our fictional men more diverse? How did we get here? Why do you think these two men portray their gender so differently in their fiction? And which do you think is more truthful of men in real life?