Junot Díaz is one of my heroes. Until I read Drown, I didn’t even really believe that I could be a writer. After consuming that book whole, I was irrevocably changed. More than just relatable, for me, the book was a revelation with it’s intelligent use of the Dominican vernacular and the, at times, uncomfortable bearing of his soul.
Besides being a literary superstar and garnering some really extraordinary accolades such as the Pulitzer Prize and most recently, becoming a MacArthur Genius Award winner, Junot’s work is a celebration of the Dominican Republic, it’s people, culture and history. That had never happened before in quite that way. To have our stories being told to the world, in our voice, and then for those very same stories to achieve such recognition was tremendously gratifying for countless Dominicans and Latinos.
To top it off, Junot is a really humble person that doesn’t allow the tributes and honors to change him. At his core, he is a man of the people, who revels in his Dominican-ness. He is not only a Dominican National treasure but an American one as well, no matter where he ranks on the Platano Index.
Q. For those that don’t know, what is the Platano Index?
A. Those that don’t know will have to ask their local Dominican. They might know.
Q. If there were a Mount Rushmore for modern Dominican Icons, you would be right there with Oscar De La Renta, Juan Luis Guerra and Felix Sanchez. How does that make you feel?
A. What happened to the women? If there were more women I’d feel a lot better.
Q. Growing up poor, reading was everything to me: How important was reading for you as a kid?
A. I wouldn’t be a writer if it wasn’t for my love of reading. Everything about my art extends from that central practice, that preoccupation. Reading was my internet, my facebook, my wikipedia, my time machine.
Q. The Monstro story in the New Yorker caused quite a stir. The main male character in the story did not seem to be Yunior? Does Yunior play a part in the novel?
A. It’s not Yunior. He won’t appear in the novel.
Check out my post on Junot’s work for the Huffington Post: Led Black: Un Pie Aqui y Uno Alla | Huffington Post