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Junot Díaz (born 31 December 1968) is a Dominicanmarker-Americanmarker writer and creative writing professor at MITmarker. 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, a neighborhood in Santo Domingomarker, Dominican Republicmarker. 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 Statesmarker. Díaz emigrated to Parlin, New Jerseymarker in December 1974, where he was re-united with his father. He lived in the London Terrace Apartments, less than a mile from what he has described as "one of the largest landfills in New Jersey."

He attended Madison Park Elementary and was a voracious reader, often walking four miles in order to borrow books from his public library. 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 Schoolmarker) in Old Bridge Township, New Jerseymarker in 1987.

He attended Kean Collegemarker in Union, New Jersey for one year before transferring and ultimately completing his BA at Rutgers Collegemarker in 1992, majoring in English; there he was involved in a creative-writing living-learning residence hallmarker 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 Universitymarker in Ithaca, New Yorkmarker in 1995, where he wrote most of his first collection of short stories. Díaz is active in the Dominican community and teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker, 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. He was a Writing Fellow at Wesleyan Universitymarker, in 2009, and participated in Wesleyan's Distinguished Writers Series.


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 Studymarker 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 September 2007, Miramax acquired the rights for a film adaptation of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

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. 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" in 1997 and "How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie" 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 noticeable 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 book or had given it poor reviews.

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 Republicmarker, 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."

In addition to the Pulitzer, The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao was awarded the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Novel of 2007 , the Anisfield-Wolf Award , the 2008 Dayton Literary Peace Price for Fiction , the 2008 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the 2008 Massachusetts Book Prize for Best Fiction . 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 . The novel was also selected by Time and 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 were among the 35 publications that placed the novel on their Best of 2007 lists. The novel was the subject of a panel at the 2008 Modern Language Association conference in San Francisco.

Activism and advocacy

Díaz has been active in a number of community organizations in New York Citymarker, from Pro-Libertad, to the Dominican Workers Party (Partido Trabajador Dominicano) and the Unión de Jóvenes Dominicanos. He has been critical of immigration policy in the United States and with fellow author Edwidge Danticat published an op-ed piece in The New York Times condemning the illegal deportation of Haitians and Haitian Dominicans in the Dominican Republic.


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)
  • "Wildwood" (The New Yorker, June 11&18, 2007)
  • "Alma" (The New Yorker, December 24, 2007)

  • "Homecoming, with Turtle" (The New Yorker, June 14, 2004)
  • "He'll Take El Alto" (Gourmet, September, 2007)
  • "Summer Love, Overheated" (GQ, August, 2008)


  1. Jacquelyn Loss, "Junot Díaz." Latino and Latina Writers. Ed. Alan West-Durán. Detroit: Charles Scribner and Sons, 2003. 803-816.
  3. Tejada, Miguel Cruz. "Junot Díaz dice “en RD hay muchos quirinos”; escribirá obra inspirada en caso", El Nuevo Diario , 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."
  4. [1] (Spring 2009)
  11. "Junot Diaz On 'Becoming American'", Morning Edition, National Public Radio, 24 November 2008. Accessed 7 July 2009.
  12. Op-ed article in The New York Times

Further reading

  • Perales, Contreras Jaime and Lozano, Tovar Wendolyn. "Two Pulitzer Prize (Junot Diaz and Oscar Hijuelos) Talk to Literal Magazine". Latin American Voices. Winter 2008-2009.[212071]
  • Ch'ien, Evelyn Nien-Ming. "The Exploding Planet of Junot Diaz" in Granta online. [212072]
  • Ch'ien, Evelyn Nien-Ming. "'The Shit That's Other': Unintelligible Languages" in Weird English. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. 201-242.
  • 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. " 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.
  • “Junot Díaz: Writer, Tigre, Ghetto Nerd, College Professor.” Lucero, 14 (2003); interview.

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