Author Spotlight: Junot Diaz, a writer of the immigrant lifestyle

By Jesika Islam || Arts and Leisure Editor

Photo Courtesy of www.extracrispy.com

Junot Diaz is a genius. There is no argument there, he is the recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/ Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and the PEN/ O. Henry Award, according to junotdiaz.com. He is decorated, awarded and recognized as a talented writer. Now 48 years old, Diaz is a professor of Writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the fiction editor of the Boston Review.

Junot Diaz began his life in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. His family moved to New Jersey when he was six, stated in independent.co.uk. From here Diaz’s love of literature began. He began reading and walking four miles to borrow books from the public library. Reading allowed Diaz to feel the sense of belonging he lost when he left his home in Santo Domingo. From here Diaz went on to attend Rutgers University for Writing and then to Cornell University for an M.F.A. Diaz has published two books and a collection of short stories. According to npr.com, while Drown was first published in 1996, the recognition it received, created an unwelcoming environment for Diaz’s creativity, his next novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was published ten years later, after a long struggle with writer’s’ block.

Junot Diaz’s accomplishments do not stem from long superfluous sentences, or lengthy imagery of scenic views but from his distinct voice, his ability to portray the immigrant life, and raw, vivid emotional commitment that hooks the reader. Diaz clearly draws from his Dominican immigrant background that inspires the main characters in his novels, Yunior and Oscar Wao, and also the characters in his short stories. The characters tend to be of Dominican background and either grow up in immigrant communities, struggling with the dual identity that comes from relocating, or immigrants who are struggling to settle in a country that is vastly different and fairly unwelcoming.

Reading a Diaz book is a different experience. The narrators have their own voices, back stories, and motives. Each character is crafted and tailored to the situation, products of each of their own histories. The characters are well rounded and real. Diaz accomplishes with all his characters what most writers try to accomplish with just one, characters that the reader can sympathize with. The characters feel like his neighbors, best friends, and lovers.

Diaz depicts the stories of the immigrant trying to make it in the United States. He is willing to discuss how rare the story of rags to riches is, and how the world is unkind and unwilling. He is also willing to illustrate the nitty gritty of the lifestyle. Diaz uses colloquial, deliberate language to describe the story, and the language is tailored specifically to the story, ensuring the reader is completely emerged in the story.

The capturing part of Diaz’s stories is in the simplicity of his stories and language. Diaz does not aim to write stories that are about extraordinary loves or extraordinary people, instead he chooses to write about the average immigrant, the one that no one would care to read about and makes him interesting. Diaz achieves making the mundane and boring, interesting and captivating.

Senior Jesika Islam is the Arts and Leisure Editor. Her email is jislam@fandm.edu.

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