Junot Díaz

Junot Díaz

Infobox Writer
name = Junot Díaz

imagesize =
caption = photographed 29 October 2007
pseudonym =
birthdate = birth date and age|1968|12|31
birthplace = Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
occupation = Novelist, professor
nationality = United States
period = 1995-present
genre =
subject =
movement =
debut_works =
influences = John Christopher, Sandra Cisneros, Toni Morrison
influenced =
website = http://www.junotdiaz.com

Junot Díaz (born 31 December, 1968) is a Dominican-American writer. Central to Díaz's work is the duality of the immigrant experience. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" in 2008.


Early years

Díaz was born in Villa Juana, neighborhood in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. [Jacquelyn Loss, "Junot Díaz." "Latino and Latina Writers". Ed. Alan West-Durán. Detroit: Charles Scribner and Sons, 2003. 803-816.] He was the third child in a family of five. Throughout most of his early childhood he lived with his mother and grandparents while his father, Rafael, worked in the United States. Díaz immigrated to Parlin, New Jersey in December 1974, where he was re-united with his father.

He attended Gwendolyn Brooks Elementary and was a voracious reader, often walking four miles in order to borrow books from his public library. His father abandoned the family in 1979; within months Diaz's oldest brother was diagnosed with leukemia and the family was plunged into a period of severe poverty. At this time Díaz became fascinated with apocalyptic films and books, especially the work of John Christopher, the original "Planet of the Apes" films and the BBC mini-series "Edge of Darkness". Díaz graduated from Cedar Ridge High School (now merged to form Old Bridge High School) in Old Bridge Township, New Jersey in 1987. [Tejada, Miguel Cruz. [http://www2.elnuevodiario.com.do/app/article.aspx?id=114730 "Junot Díaz dice “en RD hay muchos quirinos”; escribirá obra inspirada en caso"] , "El Nuevo Diario (Dominican Republic)", August 11, 2008. Accessed August 25, 2008. "Hizo el bachillerato en el Cedar Ridge High School de Old Bridge, Nueva Jersey, en 1987, y se licenció en inglés en la Universidad Rutgers (1992), e hizo un Master of Fine Arts en la Universidad de Cornell."]

He attended Kean College in Union, New Jersey for one year before transferring and ultimately completing his BA at Rutgers College in 1992, majoring in English; there he was involved in a creative-writing living-learning residence hall and in various student organizations and was exposed to the authors who would motivate him into becoming a writer: Toni Morrison and Sandra Cisneros. He worked his way through college by delivering pool tables, washing dishes, pumping gas and working at Raritan River Steel.

After graduating from Rutgers he was employed at Rutgers University Press as an editorial assistant. He earned his MFA from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in 1995, where he wrote most of his first collection of short stories. Diaz has said he was stunned when he received an acceptance letter from Cornell because he had not applied there. Apparently his then-girlfriend applied on his behalf. [Cespedes, Diogenes, Silvio Torres-Saillant, and Junot Diaz. "Fiction is the Poor Man's Cinema: An Interview with Junot Diaz". Callaloo 23.3, Dominican Republic Literature and Culture: 2000. pp 892-907.] Díaz is active in the Dominican community and teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is also the fiction editor for the "Boston Review". He is a founding member of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Writing Workshop, a writing workshop focused on writers of color.


His short fiction has appeared in "The New Yorker" magazine which listed him as one of the 20 top writers for the 21st century. He has also been published in "Story", "The Paris Review" and in the anthologies "The Best American Short Stories" four times (1996, 1997, 1999, 2000) and "African Voices". He is best known for his two major works: the short story collection "Drown" (1996) and the novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" (2007). Both were published to critical acclaim and he won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the latter.

Diaz has received a Eugene McDermott Award, a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, a Lila Acheson Wallace Readers Digest Award, the 2002 Pen/Malamud Award, the 2003 US-Japan Creative Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was selected as one of the 39 most important Latin American writers under the age of 39 by the Bogotá Book Capital of World and the Hay Festival. In September of 2007, Miramax acquired the rights for a film adaptation of "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao".cite news | last =Cheuse | first =Alan | title =Diaz's First Novel Details a 'Wondrous Life' | publisher =NPR | date =2007-08-28 | url =http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14004835 | accessdate =2008-04-08 ]

The stories in "Drown" focus on the teenage narrator's impoverished, fatherless youth in the Dominican Republic and his struggle adapting to his new life in New Jersey. Reviews were generally strong but not without complaints.cite web | title =Sneak Peeks: Fiction, "DROWN" | publisher =Salon | url =http://www.salon.com/sneaks/sneakpeeks960905.html | accessdate =2008-04-08 ] The titles in the collection include "Ysrael", "Fiesta, 1980", "Aurora", "Drown", "Boyfriend", "Edison, New Jersey", "How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie", "No Face", "Negocios". Diaz read twice for PRI's This American Life: "Edison, New Jersey"cite web | url=http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=57 | title=This American Life: Episode 57 | accessdate=2008-04-08 | publisher=This American Life ] in 1997 and "How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie"cite web | url=http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=94 | title=This American Life: Episode 94 | accessdate=2008-04-08 | publisher=This American Life ] in 1998. Díaz also published a Spanish translation of' "Drown", entitled "Negocios". The arrival of his novel ("The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) in 2007 prompted a minor re-appraisal of Diaz's earlier work. "Drown" became widely recognized as an important landmark in contemporary literature—ten years after its initial publication—even by critics who had either entirely ignored the bookcite news | last =Kakutani | first =Michiko | title =Travails of an Outcast | publisher =The New York Times | date =2007-09-04 | url =http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/04/books/04diaz.html?_r=1&ex=1189483200&en=8689692aaea0f735&ei=5070&oref=slogin | accessdate =2008-04-08 ] or had given it poor reviews.cite news | last =Gates | first =David | title =From A Sunny Mordor to The Garden State: Junot Díaz's first novel is worth all the waiting | language = | publisher =Newsweek | date =2007-09-10 | url =http://www.newsweek.com/id/40717 | accessdate =2008-04-08 ]

Díaz's first novel, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao", was published in September 2007. "New York Times" critic Michiko Kakutani characterized Díaz's writing in the novel as:

a sort of streetwise brand of Spanglish that even the most monolingual reader can easily inhale: lots of flash words and razzle-dazzle talk, lots of body language on the sentences, lots of David Foster Wallace-esque footnotes and asides. And he conjures with seemingly effortless aplomb the two worlds his characters inhabit: the Dominican Republic, the ghost-haunted motherland that shapes their nightmares and their dreams; and America (a.k.a. New Jersey), the land of freedom and hope and not-so-shiny possibilities that they’ve fled to as part of the great Dominican diaspora.

Writing for "Time", critic Lev Grossman said that Díaz's novel was "so astoundingly great that in a fall crowded with heavyweights--Richard Russo, Philip Roth--Díaz is a good bet to run away with the field. You could call "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao"... the saga of an immigrant family, but that wouldn't really be fair. It's an immigrant-family saga for people who don't read immigrant-family sagas."cite news | last =Grossman | first =Lev | title =What to Watch For: "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" | publisher =Time Magazine | url =http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1655968_1655989_1656010,00.html | accessdate =2008-04-08 ]

In addition to the Pulitzer, "The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao" was awarded the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize [http://www.mercantilelibrary.org/awards/sargent.php] , the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Novel of 2007 cite news | title = Junot Diaz wins big award for 'Oscar Wao' | publisher =CNN | date =2008-04-07 | url =http://edition.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/books/03/07/bookcritic.prizes.ap/ | accessdate =2008-04-08 ] and the Anisfield-Wolf Award [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anisfield-Wolf_Book_Awards] . Díaz also won the James Beard Foundation's M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award for his article “He’ll Take El Alto,” which appeared in "Gourmet", September 2007 [http://www.gourmet.com/services/presscenter/pressreleases/awards] . The novel was also selected by "Time"cite web | last = Grossman | first = Lev | url=http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/top10/article/0,30583,1686204_1686244_1691840,00.html | title=Top 10 Fiction Books | accessdate= 2008-04-08 | publisher= "Time" Online ] and "New York Magazine"cite web | url=http://nymag.com/arts/cultureawards/2007/41801/ | title=The Year in Books | accessdate=2008-04-08 | publisher="New York Magazine"] as the best novel of 2007. "St. Louis Post-Dispatch", "Los Angeles Times", "Village Voice", "Christian Science Monitor", "New Statesman", "Washington Post" and "Publishers Weekly" also placed the novel on their Best of 2007 lists. The novel will be the subject of a panel at the 2008 Modern Language Association conference in San Francisco.



;Short stories
* "Ysrael" ("Story", Autumn 1995)
* "How To Date A Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie" ("The New Yorker", December 25, 1995)
* "Drown" ("The New Yorker", January 29, 1996)
* "Fiesta 1980" ("Story", Winter 1996)
* "The Sun, The Moon, The Stars" ("The New Yorker", February 2, 1998)
* "Otravida, Otravez" ("The New Yorker", June, 21, 1999)
* "Flaca" ("Story", Autumn 1999)
* "Nilda" ("The New Yorker", October 4, 1999)
* "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" ("The New Yorker", December 25, 2000)
* "Homecoming, with Turtle" ("The New Yorker", June 14, 2004)
* "Wildwood" ("The New Yorker", November 18, 2007)
* "Alma" ("The New Yorker", December 24, 2007)
* "Summer Love, Overheated" ("GQ", August, 2008)

Awards and Grants

Pulitzer Prize in Fiction 2008

The Wright/Hurston Legacy Award 2008

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction 2008

The Anisfield-Wolf Book Award 2008

The Massachusetts Book Award 2008

James Beard Foundation M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award 2008

The National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction 2007

The John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize 2007

Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters 2007

US-Japan Creative Artist Fellowship/National Endowment for the Arts 2003

Radcliffe Center for Advance Studies Fellowship at Harvard University 2003

PEN/Malamud Award 2002

Lila Acheson Wallace Readers Digest Award 2000

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship 1999


Further reading

*Ch'ien, Evelyn Nien-Ming. "The Shit That's Other: Junot Diaz" in "Weird English". Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.
*Dalleo, Raphael, and Elena Machado Sáez. "Moving On Up and Out: Lowercase Latino/a Realism in the Work of Junot Díaz and Angie Cruz." "The Latino/a Canon and the Emergence of Post-Sixties Literature". New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
*Lennon, John Robert. " [http://writersatcornell.blogspot.com/2007/02/interview-junot-diaz.html Writers at Cornell: Interview with Junot Díaz] ". February 22, 2007.
*Suarez, Lucia. "The tears of Hispaniola: Haitian and Dominican diaspora memory." Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006.

External links

* [http://www.junotdiaz.com Junot Diaz official website]
* [http://ur.rutgers.edu/archive/spotlight-diaz/ Literary Sensation]
* [http://www.charlierose.com/guests/junot-diaz Junot Diaz on the Charlie Rose show]
* [http://www.omnivoracious.com/2008/04/junot-diaz-youv.html Interview and Excerpt from the Upcoming "Dark America"]
* [http://www.collegian.psu.edu/archive/2007/02/02-13-07tdc/02-13-07dnews-02.asp "Daily Collegian" (PSU) interview with Díaz]
* [http://bostonist.com/2007/09/10/bostonist_inter_1.php Bostonist interview with Díaz]
* [http://www.pw.org/mag/0709/bures.htm Chasing the Whale: "Poets & Writers" profile of Junot Díaz]
* [http://www.kwls.org/lit/kwls_blog/2008/07/junot_daz_2008boyfriend.cfm Podcast: Díaz reading "Boyfriend," a short story published in "Drown". From the Key West Literary Seminar, 2008.]
* [http://www.kwls.org/lit/podcasts/2008/01/junot_diaz_january_18_2008.cfm Podcast: Díaz reading from "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" at the Key West Literary Seminar, 2008]
* [http://library.christchurch.org.nz/Guides/GoodReads/WritersandReaders/2008/Auckland/JunotDiaz/ Christchurch City Libraries - Interview with Junot Diaz - "Junot Diaz, the devil and me"]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-tD45oj1ro Junot Díaz on Authors@Google]
* [http://www.comedycentral.com/colbertreport/videos.jhtml?videoId=174353 Junot Díaz on the Colbert Report]
* [http://www.themonthly.com.au/tm/node/1093 Video of Junot Diaz at the Sydney Writers' Festival, 2008]

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