This week, I want to provide a little background and information about another amazing writer: Junot Diaz.
Diaz was born in Santo Domingo, Domincan Republic, one of five children. He spent his early life living with his mother and grandparents in the Dominican Republic while his father worked in the United States. When he was young, he and his family immigrated to New Jersey. All of his writing is heavily influenced by his upbringing, and he writes with a heavy emphasis on the immigrant narrative.
Diaz's first published work was a collection of short stories called "Drown". Drown is a collection of stories centered around narrator Yunior, a character who is somewhat representative of Diaz himself. A central theme within the collection is the struggles faced by an immigrant family trying to establish themselves in America, as well as the strained relationship between Yunior and his father, who is at best neglectful, and at worst abusive.
Drown was fairly well recieved upon its initial release, with critics generally favoring the collection's approach to the immigrant narrative and the fallacy of the American Dream, the pursuit of which is portrayed as a fruitless endeavor for an impoverished immigrant family.
Diaz's first novel, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao", was released in 2007, making huge waves and receiving huge amounts of accolades. The novel tells the story of Oscar, a nerdy young man who is unlucky in romance. He blames this lack of luck on the fuku, a curse upon his family (specifically the curse of the new world).
The story is a tragic one, where Oscar is constantly berated by his peers for his habits, which include writing and reading fantasy stories, role-playing, and other 'nerdy' persuits. Throughout the whole novel, Oscar repeatedly falls in love with various women, all of whom ultimately reject or deny his affections. This cycle of rejection depresses Oscar to the point of suicide. He survives the attempt, though, and winds up taking a trip to the Domincan Republic, almost therapeutically. Ultimately this is where Oscar's life finds its end, after he falls in love with a hooker.
Diaz has been praised for the book, and it received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, in addition to heaps of other awards.
Part of the praise for the work was the style of narration, which created an aesthetic separation from the events of the story and the telling of them. It allowed for some outsider obervation, as well as a sense of metafiction, as the narrator reminds us that this is a story we encounter as it is being told, not as it happens.
Diaz's latest work is another collection of short stories, called "This is How You Lose Her". As the title implies, it is a collection of stories about love and relationships, and how things that are so important to us can fall apart, and often do because of our own inabilities to treat the things we cherish with the appropriate level of care.
The same trends that Diaz was recognized in his first works re-occur in This is How You Lose Her. Yunior is again a major part of the work, and the code-switiching betwen Spanish slang and literary English vernaculars is at work again. The collection is a passionate and heartfelt expression of love and loss.
It is a beautiful book, and it is unapologetically Diaz. It is exemplary of his attitude on writing. He says that there are "two kinds of writers. there are writiers who write for other writers, and writers who write for readers. I like to keep my readers in mind when i'm writing."
Talented and accomplished writer that he is, Junot Diaz still has more to offer the literary community. Diaz is an outspoken opponent of the United States' immigration policies, as well as certain policies of the Dominican Republic, particularly concerning their treatment of Haitians.
Diaz works actively to empower young Latinx men and women to pursue creative careers. He has said on multiple occaisions that he writes specifically for them, because there is a distinct lack of representation for Latinx people in the literary community. Diaz speaks often and loudly about the importance of representation and having an outlet and reflection for young immigrants, or children of immigrants, who may not otherwise have any.
Diaz is currently working on his next full-length novel, reportedly called Monstro, a sci-fi epic. I'm excitedly looking forward to it, and I hope after reading this, you are too.