Friday, June 20, 2008

Immigrant of the Day: Junot Diaz (Domincan Republic)

250pxjunot_dc3adaz Citizen Orange suggested that Junot Diaz, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, be the Immigrant of the Day (if  not the year).   We agree.

Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1968, Junot Díaz moved to the United States at age six, settling in New Jersey. Central to Díaz's work is the duality of the immigrant experience.  In New Jersey in 1974, Diaz was re-united with his father who had been working in the United States.

Díaz completed his BA at Rutgers in 1992, majoring in English.  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 University in Ithaca, New York in 1995.

Diaz 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), which earned him the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

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.  The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar 51heqloy1rl__sl500_bo2204203200_pis Wao plays on similar themes.

Díaz is active in the Dominican community and teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 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.

The New Yorker magazine listed Junot Diaz as one of the 20 top writers for the 21st century.

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 Study at Harvard University, and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


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