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Junot Díaz

A Writer's Wondrous Life

With his first novel, the Dominican American writer nets the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.


You were in your twenties when Drown came out and now you’re 39. How has age affected your writing?


What’s interesting about getting older, for me, is that all of the illusions of youth, the illusions of endless and boundless super-humanness are scuttled once you get to 40. You realize that you’re vulnerable, that you’re fallible, and that you’re human. I never realized how human I was until I started approaching 40 and things—aches that normally I could brush off—began to last longer. These aren’t bad things to know because I feel like, in the last few years, I’ve come to value, appreciate, and honor life in ways that I didn’t when I was in my twenties.


You’re only the second Latino writer in U.S. history to win the Pulitzer for fiction. [The first was Oscar Hijuelos in 1990 for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.] What has that experience meant to you?


That very statement is a criticism toward the entire U.S. literary establishment. It speaks volumes on how certain kinds of writers are just consistently marginalized and undervalued. The other thing is that what success tends to do for any piece of art is to encourage and give permission—in a psychological way—to other artists to do the same and to do more.


What are you working on now?


I’m working on a novel called Dark America. It’s a science fiction novel.


Does the Pulitzer affect your thinking about this project?


It has no effect. I work so slowly and so onerously that nothing could get between me and my auto-torture. 


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