Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Junot Díaz

Junot Díaz's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Best American Short Stories. His debut story collection, Drown was a national bestseller and won numerous awards. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times called Díaz's novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao “a book that decisively establishes him as one of contemporary fiction's most distinctive and irresistible new voices.”

From a Q & A at his publisher's website:

How has your life changed since the publication of Drown a decade ago? Was the sudden acclaim energizing or disorienting?

We’re talking eleven years ..., so of course one’s life is bound to change plenty. But Drown acted like an accelerant, it put things into overdrive. To be honest, in real terms, the publication of my first book really didn’t produce much acclaim. I was known among the story-writing nerds and the MFA types and the New Yorker crowd (whoever they are) and in certain sectors of the Dominican community, but that was about it. Still, even that little bit of “fame” was a lot for an anonymous immigrant kid from central Jersey who’d worked his way through school. As for its real effects: I sure wasn’t ready for that kind of attention (by which I mean any kind), so after the book was published I found myself withdrawing deeper into my core of friends (most from childhood), into my students, into my work. I was (and am) super-self-conscious, but Drown made me even more so. Don’t know why. But my God: I’ve seen the world because of my writing, and met the most extraordinary people. Drown has given me a contemplative life and allowed me to support the causes I am most passionate about, and help other writers and shine light on a minute fraction of the New Jersey Dominican experience. It’s been a source of joy in spite of my discomforts, and that’s the way of most good things, I suppose.

Why do you think people responded so strongly to that story collection, and still remember and talk about it?

Man, even my publisher calls my first book a short-story collection! Okay, for the record: Since its inception, Drown was neither a novel nor a story collection, but something a little more hybrid, a little more creolized. Which was why we didn’t put “Stories” or “A Novel” on the cover. We wanted folks to decide what it was, as long as they didn’t foreclose that it could also be something else, ¿entiendes? Okay, enough about my categorical anxieties...

Regarding your question: I’ve been really fortunate. Drown is one of those little-known books that...[read on]
Learn about the book that Junot Díaz says changed his life.

See Junot Díaz's most important books and the Page 99 Test: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

--Marshal Zeringue