TACOMA, Wash. – Dominican-American author Junot Díaz, a 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner whose powerful storytelling bridges cultures and explores identity and relationships, will appear at University of Puget Sound on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 8 p.m. in Schneebeck Concert Hall. For tickets please see below.
Díaz is currently on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is the author of the highly personalized and bestselling books The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This Is How You Lose Her.
Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey, Díaz is a writer and a teacher of writing who expresses with wit and piercing truth the complexities of living in two cultures at once. The New Yorker listed him as one of the top 20 writers of the 20th century. His numerous awards include the $500,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius award” in 2012, the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts, and the 2002 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story.
Yet, despite his success and national recognition, Díaz has never let go of his past. He reflects in media interviews that he will remain forever the immigrant—an outsider in a country that, in recent years, has grown increasingly hostile to the flood of Latino immigrants.
His most recent book of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her, is a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. It was acclaimed by Vogue as “ribald, streetwise, and stunningly moving—a testament, like most of his work, to the yearning, clumsy ways young men come of age.”
His first works were the short story collection Drown and the novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was this book that propelled Díaz to fame.
Set in New Jersey, the novel chronicles the life of bookish Oscar Wao and his Dominican Republic family, who leave a life of privilege under the island’s notorious dictator Rafael Trujillo and move to a big city ghetto. Díaz struggled to write the book for 11 years, going through hundreds of drafts in a quest to get the bittersweet story and the island’s brutal history on paper.
At every chance Díaz reminds his audience of the contributions made to America by the country’s 1.5 million Dominicans, while encouraging them to understand young Dominicans, who are ricocheted between the demands of their new peers and their old-world parents. Brown Political Review comments that Díaz’s writing is notable because “it is a symbol of what it means to become an American, which is to add to your identity and not subtract from it.”
The 44-year-old author argues that America needs to give young immigrants the tools and access to succeed. When the Georgia legislature barred undocumented immigrants from five top state schools in 2011, Díaz joined the board of advisors of Freedom University, which provides such students with a college-level education. He has worked with New York community groups and he advocates for immigration reform. He has been interviewed on media including The Colbert Report, National Public Radio, and PBS, with Bill Moyers.
“An Evening with Junot Diaz” is sponsored by the Susan Resneck Pierce Lectures in Public Affairs and the Arts, University of Puget Sound’s premier lecture series. The series brings intellectuals, public figures, writers, and artists to the university to present challenging ideas that stimulate further exploration and discussion on campus.
Past Pierce lecturers have included Nobel Prize laureate Wole Soyinka; economist Robert Reich; author Carlos Fuentes; psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison; filmmaker Spike Lee; the Hon. Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, N.J.; political commentator David Brooks; The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman; playwright Edward Albee; race and religion scholar Cornel West; musician Philip Glass; playwright Suzan-Lori Parks; and dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp.
FOR TICKETS order online at http://tickets.pugetsound.edu, or call Wheelock Information Center at 253.879.6013 to purchase with a credit card, from August 28. Admission is $20 for the general public. Advance purchase is advised. Complimentary tickets are available to Puget Sound students, faculty, and staff. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door.
Press photos of Junot Díaz can be downloaded from: www.pugetsound.edu/pressphotos
Photo on page: Top right: Juno Díaz, by Nina Shubin.
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