Junot Diaz Interview

Evelyn Reyes

Blog Posts, Evelyn Reyes

It’s September.  What does that mean?  Back to school.  When I think of going back to school all my thoughts turn towards books!  I love books!  If books were a man I’d marry them.   Books were a big part of my childhood.  As a young girl, instead of going outside to play with my friends, sometimes I would stay indoors and read!    In these books I would learn about faraway places, complex emotions, relationships between people, exotic foods and imaginary worlds!  It was a place for me to escape to and learn new things.   Reading is what made me a smarter than average kid.  Reading gives you information and perspective that you can put into use in your daily life.  And if it does not do all that…it will certainly transport you to a world that is unlike your own and give you respite from yours.  I am an avid reader and I am always reading 2 and 3 books at the same time.  I buy books all the time too!  I always say I am going to stop…but who can resist buying a book for .50 cents at the second hand shop!  I currently have about 100 books in my “to be read” pile!   Earlier this year I took a class on diversity in civic leadership…that class spawned a huge interest in political books that I want to read, such as:  The Political Brain, All The Kings Men, The Last Hurrah, Buck Up and Suck Up.  Those are not the only books on my list, I also have Conquistatora and A Return to Love on the list.    The latest books I have read are parts one and two of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and the book I am featuring today: This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz.   It hit the presses on September 11, 2012,  so make you sure your run out and get your copy.  Below is my interview with him.  He is off the chart smartm witty and down to earth!  His 2 previous books The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Drown awakened an entire generation of people and inspired them all to read.  Wao also garnered him a prestigious Pulitzer in 2008!


Q:    What’s up JD?
A:        I’m ok.  Just worrying about the election and trying to remember how to write a book.  The usual stuff.

Q:    What is the first book you remember reading and how did it affect you?
A Richard Scarry book, all these little animals living in a City.  It just made me happy to know such a wonderful book could exist.  Made me realize that a book could be a wonder.

Q:        What book inspired you to write?
A:        Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.  That novel gave me a sense of what literature could do.  It touched me profoundly.  I read it at a good time in my life. My first year at Rutgers University.  I was looking for my heart and for my direction and in that extraordinary book I found both.

Q:        What is your favorite book of all time and why?  How many times have you read it?
A:        Tough question.  I think its a book that I have not yet read.  And when I read
it I will read endlessly.

Q:        What books have you read that you consider a guilty pleasure?
A:        The Lord of the Rings.

Q:        What do you think about the fascination with the Fifty Shades erotica trilogy?  Have you read them?
A:        Hey, whatever makes people read is good by me.  I never knew there was a genre of mommy porn.  Now I know. 

Q:        What types of books won’t you read?
A:        Historical romances set in Scotland.

Q:    Your new book “This Is How You Lose Her” is a collection of short stories about love, loss and heartbreak.  This is a subject that is written about by many, what is the main idea behind this collection?
A:  I guess I wanted to write about kind of men who ruin so many of the relationships I’m familiar with.  The so-called dogs.  Wanted to humanize them.  Show how fucked up they are but that nevertheless theyre still worthy of compassion.

Q:    This book feels somewhat autobiographical to me.  Who is Yunior?    You?  If it’s not you then how did you develop him and his personality?
A: He is a distorted extreme version of me.  Seemed like perfect vehicle to discuss and explore Dominican New Jersey masculinity of a certain kind.  I wanted him to be a jerk but also smart and somewhat sensitive.  I guess I wanted him to be a human being by which I mean an imperfect soul. 

Q:    As you know, I am a cancer survivor myself and also I was a caregiver, I lost my mom to cancer in 2009.  How does your personal experience with cancer influence how your write about it in your book?
A:  My brother suffered through childhood leukemia in the 80s.  From my limited perspective cancer requires tremendous courage and resilience on the part of the survivor.  You have to have the heart of the lion and the hope of a saint and it helps if your family pulls for you.  And yet that still guarantees nothing.  As you can tell from my books my brother’s cancer had an enormous impact on me.  Shaped profoundly how I think of the world, how I think of illness, how I see ideals like family and community.  I have a very early lesson on the cruel brevity of our mortal lives.  I always say once you land on cancer planet, even if you’re healed, you never really get off.

Q:    What do you want your readers to learn from reading “This is How you lose Her”?
A: I’m not sure I want them to learn anything specific.  I’d like for my book to provide them with the opportunity to have a deep human experience by living in the world of the book for a little bit.  That’s a radical enough expectation: to want the book to offer the possibility for the reader of transformation.   

Q:    WHAT?  Stop the presses, you already have another book in the making!  By your own admission you take your time to write.      How did your next novel “MONSTRO” come about so quickly?  Is it scary?  What is it about?
A:  MONSTRO’s nowhere near done.  It’s barely started and honestly it may never work.  The novel is supposed to be scary and gory and violent.  It’s about a monster invasion of the Dominican Republic and Haiti by what may be an alien force.  I know: nuts.  But it may just be a pipe dream.  Let’s talk in five years.

Q:    What is your advice to aspiring writers?
A:    Read. 

Q:    If you could have dinner with one author, who would it be and why?
A:    Patrick Chamoiseau.  I love his work.  He inspires me.  And he seems so fucking smart. 

Q:    You are on a deserted island, what 3 books do you have with you?
A:    I have no idea.  I’d just grab three off the shelf and hope to god they were good.  I’d rather risk a brand new book than to take an old one I’m familiar with.  But just to play along here are my three: AKIRA by Katsuhiro Otomo.  Family Installments by Edward Rivera and Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. 

Q:    Dude, you swear like a M#$%*@#$%ing sailor!  What’s up with that?
A:  I grew up in a repressive military family, in a country where people continuously patrol what they say and yet despite it all my mother still cursed like a pirate.  So it’s one part rebellion, one part family tradition. 

Q:    What did you have for breakfast today?
A:    Nothing. 

Q:    So let’s say I am a student in your writing class @ MIT, what is my first assignment?
 A:    You’ll read some stories and be asked to prepare an operational definition of what a story is, based on your reading. 

Q:    Describe your teaching style in 6 words.
A:    I’m rigorous so you’ll learn lots.
Q:    I frequently get writers block how do you deal with that?
A:    Read.  Reading is always the answer. And be gentle with yourself.  No one can write under the lash of cruelty. 

Q:    I really like exclamation points!  What is your favorite punctuation and why?
A:    Exclamation points!  It’s the only way to signal Dominican verbal extremity. 

Q:    I know you have some GREAT advice on love to give.  What is the best piece of love advice you can give my readers?
A:    I remember giving you some a bit ago.  Here’s my two bits of wisdom: try always to date your equal.  In the most democratic sense of the term.  Someone who is not dependent on you and who you are not dependent on, someone who scares you, in a good way.  But what do I know?  I’ve ruined almost every relationship I’ve been in.  Probably the best advice I could give is: don’t listen to me.  Thank you so much E for your time and for giving me the space here.  Always great talking to you, sister. Junot Diaz


Mr. Diaz will be in Cambridge for a book signings and readings!



Posted on August 8, 2012 by Junot Diaz

Off-site at Coolidge Corner Theater, 290 Harvard Street, Brookline
Tickets at http://www.brooklinebooksmith-shop.com/event/junot-diaz



Posted on August 2, 2012 by Junot Diaz

Off-site at Brattle Theater, 40 Brattle Street, Cambridge

This event is ticketed:  http://www.harvard.com/event/junot_diaz/



Posted on August 2, 2012 by Junot Diaz

Reading at MIT @ Stata Center, Building 32-123.  This event is free and open to the public.  For additional information please contact kclapper@mit.edu



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