Junot Diaz

(Junot Díaz)

Junot Diaz
Junot Diaz
  • Born: December 31, 1968
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Writer

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'A Princess of Mars' may not have exerted the same colossal pull that Tarzan had on the global imagination, but its influence on generations of readers cannot be underestimated.
A young person, or someone who's writing in a different way - in some ways you could say, eventually someone will find them. Eventually someone will hear them. But it's good a lot of young people persevere. Because sometimes you have to send something out a thousand times before anyone recognizes your value.
Any art worth its name requires you to be fundamentally lost for a very long time. Time ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Art has a way of confronting us, of reminding us, of engaging us, in what it means to be human, and what it means to be human is to be flawed, is to be contradictory, is to be often weak, and yet despite all of these what we would consider drawbacks, that we're also quite beautiful. Spin is the opposite. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Artists are not cheerleaders, and we're not the heads of tourism boards. We expose and discuss what is problematic, what is contradictory, what is hurtful and what is silenced in the culture we're in.
Being an author is always like being a well-run dictatorship - it's all one person speaking.
Books don't live and die by awards. You don't listen to an Hector Lavoe album because it won some awards.
Cities produce love and yet feel none. A strange thing when you think about it, but perhaps fitting. Cities need that love more than most of us care to imagine. Cities, after all, for all their massiveness, all their there-ness, are acutely vulnerable. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Colleagues are a wonderful thing - but mentors, that's where the real work gets done. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
'Drown' was always a hybrid book. It's connected stories - partially a story collection but partially a novel. I always wanted the reader to decide which genre they thought the book belonged to more - story, novel, neither, both.
Even I thought I would be a writer who put something out every year. But that's not how it worked out.
Even if you didn't come from another country, the idea of how do you make a home somewhere new is common to anyone who's either going to college, shifting towns.
Every single immigrant we have, undocumented or documented, is a future American. That's just the truth of it. Truth ;Future
For kind of sophisticated art I'm interested in, the larger structural rebuke has to be so subtle that it has to be distributed at an almost sub-atomic level. Otherwise, you fall into the kind of preachy, moralistic fable that I don't think makes for good literature. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
For me it's a remarkable thing that there is a prize celebrating and honouring and making for a brief moment short fiction the centre of the literary universe.
For my first three books the setting (or place if you will) has always been a given - N.J. and the Dominican Republic and some N.Y.C. - so from one perspective you could say that the place in my work always comes first. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Genre might certainly increase some of your narrative freedoms, but it also diminishes others. That's the nature of genre. Nature
God bless perseverance. Because it's not easy. Religion & God
I act most like myself... when I'm in my hometown, Santo Domingo. I try to get there about five times a year.
I always had a sense that I would fall in love with Tokyo. In retrospect I guess it's not that surprising. I was of the generation that had grown up in the '80s when Japan was ascendant (born aloft by a bubble whose burst crippled its economy for decades), and I'd fed on a steady diet of anime and samurai films. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I always individuate myself from other writers who say they would die if they couldn't write. For me, I'd die if I couldn't read.
I am a chatty person, but colossally discreet.
I am a person who dreads any kind of public exposure and any kind of public event. I spend all day, if I have to do a reading, preparing.
I can always tell if someone's from Harvard because they trot out their vitae. I would die at Harvard.
I can't imagine anybody who ends up being an artist who didn't pass through a time of geekiness. Time
I didn't start writing until late high school and then I was just diddling. Mainly I loved to read and my writing was an outgrowth of that.
I discovered early that as an artist there was absolutely nothing wrong with being surrounded by people who were not dedicated to your field.
I do think that books are invaluable as a reservoir of what we call the human space. And this is why I think that, even if they're threatened, the work that they do has an incalculable merit. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I do think that we all draw limits and I feel like part of the work of an artist is it shouldn't be fun. This shouldn't be comfortable. I'm not looking to make people feel unsafe, but I am looking to make people feel uncomfortable. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I don't think I could have tackled 'The Pura Principle' until now. It takes me about twenty years to come to term with any difficult period in my life, to get enough of a grasp on it to fictionalize it. Life
I don't think you can be from the Caribbean and not know a certain amount about the apocalypse.
I feel most like myself... after I run - I go out for five miles every morning. Morning
I find infidelity interesting because it's so revelatory about people. It's this really silent thing. Everyone acknowledges it as a general practice, but nobody likes to go beyond that, to get down to the nitty-gritty.
I grew up in the shadow of the Trujillato, saw how the regime had ravaged so many families.
I guess I'm just hopelessly fascinated by the realities that you can assemble out of connected fragments.
I have a very powerful sense of place, but I have a very powerful sense of being a migrant, so it's both. It seems like I'm always leaving my home. That's part of the formula. I love the Dominican Republic. I go back all the time. I love New Jersey. Go back all the time. Time ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I have three storage units, and that's no lie. Three storage units. All books.
I know for a fact that - it's just the way our biases work now in the industry of literature, but certainly a short story collection does not receive the same kind of attention as a novel. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I look most like myself... when I'm wearing my black, nerdy engineering glasses.
I love 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X.' That was like the only black book we read in high school. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I mean in the community that I grew up in, you know, a very, you know, mixed, almost entirely African Diaspora community, one of the things that we were not ever supposed to say was how much self-hatred and colorism determined and guided what we would call our desire. In other words, what we would consider beautiful.
I mean, I'm an artist by nature; no one considers what I do and no one knows who the heck I am, but that anybody does - it is astonishing. Nature
I mean, look, we're living in a country where you can't have a non-denominational response. If you're slightly critical of either party, all of the partisans jump on you like you're a lunatic.
I mean, the nation in which we live - and the world in which we live - is so extraordinarily more like a future than the futures that we're being sold on the screen and on television. Future
I read a book a week, man. And I don't have a great memory, but I have a good memory about what I read.
I really am a believer that 99.99% of all the stories we need, not only as artists but as human beings, not only as writers but as readers, haven't been written yet. Certainly haven't been published yet.
I seem to enjoy telling stories with a central absence, with a lacuna tunnelled into them.
I seem to have to make my characters family before I can access their hearts in any way that matters. Families, Children & Parenting
I sleep way too much and I read tremendously.
I think 90% of my ideas evaporate because I have a terrible memory and because I seem to be committed to not scribble anything down. As soon as I write it down, my mind rejects it.
I think one of the paradoxes of writing fiction is when people enjoy it, they want it to be real. So they look for connections.
I think the average guy thinks they're pro-woman, just because they think they're a nice guy and someone has told them that they're awesome. But the truth is far from it. Truth
I think there's something really painful about your identity being entirely composed of ghosts. For me, I didn't want to be this kid whose Dominicanness was something caught utterly in the past, is an abstraction, the thing that I write about. Instead I wanted it to be, first and foremost, a thing that I lived.
I was in fact pretty much - by the larger culture, by the local culture, by people around me, by people on TV - encouraged to imagine women as something slightly inferior to men. Women
I was neither black enough for the black kids or Dominican enough for the Dominican kids. I didn't have a safe category.
I was part of that group of kids growing up in the '80s under the Reagan regime, what I used to call 'living in the shadow of Dr. Manhattan,' where we would have dreams all the time that New York City was being destroyed, and that that wall of light and destruction was rolling out and would just devour our neighborhood. Time
I was, as a kid, really obsessed with reading... that was about as geeky as you could possibly get.
I wring my hands because I know that as a dude, my privilege, my long-term deficiencies work against me in writing women, no matter how hard I try and how talented I am. Women ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I write for the people I grew up with. I took extreme pains for my book to not be a native informant. Not: 'This is Dominican food. This is a Spanish word.' I trust my readers, even non-Spanish ones. Trust ;Nutrition, Food, Starvation, Farming & Agriculture
I write incredibly slowly. And, on top of that, I spent my entire youth and twenties working like a dog, so one of the things that happened when I finished 'Drown' was that I got busy living. I'd never travelled, I'd never seen anything. So I did as much travelling as my job teaching would allow.
I write very, very slowly, and for me, I have to summon all sorts of resources to make one of these pieces work. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I wrote my first sucio story, as I call them, in 1997. This was always my 'cheater's book,' my book about sucios desgraciados. My plan was to write a book about how people deal with love and loss. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
If you, like, consciously think about being cool, you're not cool. If you consciously think about being, like, different or original, you ain't different or original.
I'm a product of a fragmented world.
I'm an immigrant and I will stay an immigrant forever.
I'm just this Dominican kid from New Jersey.
I'm not writing fairy tales or object lessons.
I'm of African descent and my sister looks completely black, but I didn't look black. I was the super-nerdy kid who was also willing to fight.
I'm one of those apocalyptics. From the start of my immigrant days, I've been fascinated by end-of-the-world stories, by outbreak narratives, and always wanted to set a world-ender on Hispaniola.
I'm still trying to figure out how to write about cancer and my family's experience with it. If I had been able to write 'The Pura Principle' back in those days, I'm positive it would have had no humor in it. Which means the story would have been false. Families, Children & Parenting
I'm sure I'm one of those undiagnosed people with social anxiety.
In fact, looking at the darkest sides of the United States has only made me appreciate the things that we do right, the things that we do beautifully. We are, for all of our mistakes and all of our crimes, a remarkable place.
In minority communities there's a sensitivity, often a knee-jerk reaction, to critical representations. There's a misunderstanding of what an artist does.
In the end, all worlds, whether they're set in the future or in New Jersey of today, are fictions. Sure, you don't got to do too much work to build a mundane world, but don't get it twisted: you still got to do some work. Future ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Infidelity raises profound questions about intimacy.
It took me 11 years to struggle through one dumb book, and every day you just want to give up. But you don't find out you're an artist because you do something really well.
It took me sixteen years to write.
It wasn't that I couldn't write. I wrote every day. I actually worked really hard at writing. At my desk by 7 A.M., would work a full eight and more. Scribbled at the dinner table, in bed, on the toilet, on the No. 6 train, at Shea Stadium. I did everything I could. But none of it worked. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
It's extraordinary how many people read a book that's new and weird and befriend it.
I've always thought that you don't love a country by turning a blind eye to its crimes and to a problem. The way that you love a country is by seeing everything that it's done wrong, all of its mistakes, and still thinking that it's beautiful and that it's worthy. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
John Carter was also one of our first recognizable superhumans and there is little doubt that his extraordinary physical feats inspired Superman's creators. Remember: before Superman could fly or turn back time, he was nothing less than an earthbound crime-fighting John Carter in tights. Time
Just the fact that you get to live and breathe and interact with the world - that's pretty marvelous.
Let me tell you, if I could write one-tenth as fast as some of my friends, I'd be made. I'd be it. But instead I happen to be, in the tree of life of writers, down at the bottom, with the hematodes. Life
Like most lit nerds, I'm a voracious reader. I never got enough poetry under my belt growing up but I do read it - some of my favorites, Gina Franco and Angela Shaw and Cornelius Eady and Kevin Young, remind me daily that unless the words sing and dance, what's the use of putting them down on paper. Literature, Writers & Writing
Long before the idea of multiculturalism, in public people could say almost anything to you and get away with it.
Love is understood, in a historical way, as one of the great human vocations - but its counterspell has always been infidelity. This terrible, terrible betrayal that can tear apart not only another person, not only oneself, but whole families. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Migration gives a blank cheque to put anything you don't feel like addressing in the memory hold. No neighbours can go against the monster narrative of your family. Families, Children & Parenting
My African roots made me what I am today. They're the reason I exist at all.
My father was a Little League dictator. That really affected me, his control-freakery, his impunity, his arbitrary unreasonable power. Power
My father was a trigamist; he supported three families. We were never not poor.
My greatest responsibility is to acknowledge the mistakes and the shortcomings of the country in which I live, to acknowledge my privileges, and to try to make it a better place.
My mother took care of us until my father scrammed, and then she ended up working in the small-factory sector of New Jersey with a lot of other immigrants.
My novel, which I had started with such hope shortly after publishing my first book of stories, wouldn't budge past the 75-page mark. Nothing I wrote past page 75 made any kind of sense. Nothing. Which would have been fine if the first 75 pages hadn't been pretty damn cool. Hope
My thing is every generation of Americans has to answer what we call the 'Superman Question.' Superman comes, lands in America. He's illegal. He's one of these kids. He's wrapped up in a red bullfighter's cape. And you've got to decide what we're gonna do with Superman.
My thing is, I'm just way too harsh. It's an enormous impediment, and that's just the truth of it. It doesn't make me any better, make me any worse, it certainly isn't more valorous. I have a character defect, man. Truth
New Jersey for me is so alive with history. It's old, dynamic, African-American, Latino. History
New Jersey is to New York what Santo Domingo is to the United States. I always felt that those two landscapes, not only just the landscapes themselves but their relationships to what we would call 'a center' or 'the center of the universe,' has in some ways defined my artistic and critical vision.
Nobody warned me that when you fall in love, you really fall in love forever. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
One of the many characteristics of the new is that, at first, it's very hard to recognize it for what it is. We're lucky if we recognize something as being new when it first appears. Usually I think we don't have that privilege. It's usually after the fact that we suddenly turn around and say, 'Wow, this thing is amazing.'
'Oscar Wao' for example cohered in a period of terrible distress. All the novels that I wanted to write were not happening.
People are always fascinated by infidelity because, in the end - whether we've had direct experience or not - there's part of you that knows there's absolutely no more piercing betrayal. People are undone by it.
Personally I always feel like I could use a little more of poetry apothegmatic power in my own work but we're always lacking something. Power ;Literature, Writers & Writing ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
So the kind of boy I was, or that I was told to be, you were kind of this like half-gladiator, half-dude who, you know, was supposed to have as many girls as possible and work until your heart exploded, have no fear, you know. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Spin is 'something is beautiful because we say it's beautiful.'
Stereotypes, they're sensual, cultural weapons. That's the way that we attack people. At an artistic level, stereotypes are terrible writing.
Stories are hard. I have friends who knock out stories on a weekly or monthly basis, like they're running on medicinal-strength Updike. But for me a story is as daunting a prospect as a novel.
Students teach all sorts of things but most importantly they make explicit the courage that it takes to be a learner, the courage it takes to open yourself to the transformative power of real learning and that courage I am exposed to almost every day at MIT and that I'm deeply grateful for. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Power
Technically, I split my time between N.Y.C. and Boston. Time
The Caribbean is such an apocalyptic place, whether it's the decimation of the indigenous populations by the Europeans, whether it's the importation of slaves and their subsequent being worked to death by the millions in many ways, whether it's the immigrant processes which began for many people, new worlds ending their old ones. Death
The one thing about being a dude and writing from a female perspective is that the baseline is, you suck. The baseline is it takes so long for you to work those atrophied muscles - for you to get on parity with what women's representations of men are. Women ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
The thing is, you try your best, and what else you got? You try your best, really, that's all you can do. And for me, my best happens really so rarely.
There are a couple of strategies for writing about an absence or writing about a loss. One can create the person that was lost, develop the character of the fiancee. There's another strategy that one can employ, maybe riskier... Make the reader suffer the loss of the character in a more literal way.
There is a lot of scepticism today as to whether memoir is real. But when fiction is done at a certain level there is scepticism as to whether it is really fiction.
To an outsider, I just seem like a list of accomplishments. To me, all there is is how often I fail.
We all dream dreams of unity, of purity; we all dream that there's an authoritative voice out there that will explain things, including ourselves.
We get so many people saying short fiction is not economical, that it doesn't sell; but there are so many of us enjoying writing it and reading it. So it's wonderful to be around people who love short fiction too - it's like hanging around with my tribe. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
We get these lives for free. I didn't do anything to get this life, and no matter what the hardships are, it is free and, in a way, it's an extraordinary bargain. Life
We have a whole bunch of young people and a whole bunch of families. Are we going to disrupt these families and tear them apart? Or are we going think, like, listen - these people are here. We've got to deal with this reality. We've got to extend the franchise.
We hide so well. This is the bottom line: how hidden is male subjectivity? Name five books where male subjectivity is produced in an honest way.
Well, when you look at a lot of science fiction novels they're asking questions about power. There are questions about what it means to have power and what are the long-term consequences of power. Power ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
When I became my masked identity I was this incredible little nerd, but in the real world I had to be this tough kid from the neighborhood.
When I enter that higher-order space that's required to write, I'm a better human. For whatever my writing is, wherever it's ranked, it definitely is the one place that I get to be beautiful.
When I got heartbroken at 20, it just felt like someone had spiraled a football right into my skull. At 40, it feels like someone had driven a 757 right through me.
When I read Toni Morrison and Sandra Cisneros as a freshman at Rutgers, it all clicked - that writing was all I wanted to do. It became my calling.
When I think about my own relationships to the women that I really loved, it feels like that love, even after we've broken up and we're no longer speaking, that love never goes away. No one told me that. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Women
When I was working on 'Drown' - this was way back in the mid-'90s - I had this idea that I wanted to do another collected stories. I wanted to do another book like 'Drown' that focused specifically on infidelity.
When I write, what I long for is not more realism or fiction but more courage. That's what I always find myself short on and what I have to struggle to achieve in order that the work might live. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
You know, I was a kid who had difficulty speaking English when I first immigrated. But in my head, when I read a book, I spoke English perfectly. No one could correct my Spanish. And I think that I retreated to books as a way, you know, to be, like, masterful in a language that was really difficult for me for many years.
You never forget the discovery years. First kisses. The first time you try certain foods. Time
You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway. Hope

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