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In that same interview, you also mentioned you used to be embarrassed about being a slow writer. I wasn’t just a little embarrassed.
It’s hard not to be drawn in by Pulitzer Prize winning, MacArthur Foundation Genius Junot Diaz. These are the type of revelations that point to the hunger within the Latino community for discussions on colorism and machismo and their impact on our relationships with one another.
This is not a new idea, in the 1960s the radical Puerto Rican organization, The Young Lords, had as point 10 of their 13 point party platform that “Machismo must be revolutionary.” Is this an example of confronting an issue within the community or excusing it? In Baltimore, Diaz called on the audience, especially men, to rehumanize women, especially women of color.
Should fans and consumers simultaneously laud creatives like Diaz while challenging his the machismo in his portrayals, challenging in essence parts of himself?
Every chance J D gets to put down critics for asking if his work is autobiographical, the truth is just that: that all of his writing, and especially his recent book of short stories, TIHYLH, is thinly-veiled autobiographical fiction.
Brief Interviews is a new series in which writers discuss language, literature, and a handful of Proustian personality questions. Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. I was grabbing lunch with a few classmates at a hole in the wall in the East Village when I spotted him hunched over a plate of shawarma.
Last week at the Applied Research Center’s 2012 Facing Race Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, the Dominican-American author didn’t just show up on stage and read a speech. This elicited laughs and eye rolls from the audience but most were curious to hear the response. Diaz never directly answers the question, instead asking, “Do you mean to ask if I’m a misogynist?” Diaz explained that he, like many many Latinos in general grew up with hypermasculinity being rewarded and he wanted to reflect that in his characters. Diaz injecting the literary and cultural world with these topics is necessary as is another concept Diaz raised in his keynote, the idea of simultaneity.
Women within the Young Lords felt this idea allowed for some men within the organization to pay lip service to gender equality politically but treat their “sisters” differently in their personal lives. He invoked women of color warrior thinkers like Audre Lorde, Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua as guides. Junot Diaz said that the one place men are allowed to show vulnerability is in a woman’s bed. Or maybe the idea of simultaneity is about forgiving while transforming accountability to and within our communities. I didn’t exactly question whether the character in the book is, in fact, a version of him. I know because I’m close friends with his ex, Elizabeth, to whom he dedicated Oscar Wao, and whom he depicts—sometimes in scathing detail—in his recent book. His newest book "This Is How You Lose Her," just came out in an illustrated, deluxe edition.
I'll read outside in the rain which explains some of the swollen books I have under my desk. I had a running correspondence with somebody at NASA who used to send me all the glossy brochures the agency produced for the public.
Typical good immigrant kid – if you’re not doing the work, you should feel ashamed.Has the recognition you’ve received helped you let go of that?I don’t think it was the awards.
On paper, he seems to be much more humane than our president is, certainly when you consider our president’s deportation policies. He excused himself for being a nervous wreck and invited the audience to ask him questions as a warm up. Diaz’s latest novel, This is How You Lose Her, the one before it, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and his debut short story collection Drown are known for their realistic portrayals of Dominican-American men struggling with Latino masculinity, it’s expectations and demands. But then Diaz gets personal, explaining how growing up he “deformed” his sister’s childhood with race and masculinity issues.
While this was applauded, Diaz’s strong resistance to the predesigned conversation between himself and President and Executive Director of the Applied Research Center, Rinku Sen, was noted as contradictory.

99% of my empowerment comes from the knowledge of and experiencing first hand the abuse a few females in my family have endured before and during my lifetime. And, yes, while they were engaged he cheated on her with more women than it would be decent to say here. But I wanted to be the kind of astronaut you found in Andre Norton books--I wanted to be a spaceman--and long before I realized I didn't have the eyes or the hands or the stomach to be any kind of pilot I realized that the space shuttle wasn't taking anyone to stars and that was that.
Before my friends realized what was happening, he was peppering us with questions about where we were from, what we were studying, what we wanted to do.
This means that his characters, specifically one named Yunior, wants to be el mas macho and do it by chasing and hurting many women, mostly through infidelity. Diaz’s most revelatory moment during his Facing Race keynote was when he said that a lot compulsive womanizing in our communities is rooted in sexual violence against men and that his character, Yunior, is getting closer and closer to revealing he was raped. I woke up this morning thinking, for instance, how we try to compare oppressions, but rarely say aloud who suffers the most from the isms (poor LGBT women of color). But what I will say is that this book finally and irrevocably shows that at the heart of Diazis not sympathy or activisim or genius, but profound neurotic autopathy.
I actually have the damn thing locked away because I'm afraid I'm going to accidentally ruin it.
This year’s typically eclectic class includes a mandolinist, a pediatric neurosurgeon and a geochemist. He was a dude, and he was cool — far cooler than he had any reason to be with a group of strangers in a Middle Eastern dive on a dreary winter afternoon. The gap between what we need from our political leaderships and what one must be to be a politician has never been wider. In a book market that is generally short on Latino character complexity, Diaz can feel like a savior. After 15 years of marriage to a native Dominican man I can honestly and thank God to say I have!
He is willing (volunteering even) to open the wounds he created for Elizabeth and pour barrels of salt in them for his own literary success and emotional catharsis despite supposedly loving her deeply.
Mostly he sounded exactly like the effervescent narrator of his fiction, Yunior made flesh.I was reminded of this run-in when I found him trembling very slightly beside a sculpture of a golden sea urchin in the lobby of the SoHo Trump hotel earlier this month.
If we don’t get a new political order, we’re going to keep finding ourselves in this same situation.  But let’s not front, Hillary Clinton and him as vice-president? I am raising my daughter to take NO mess from no man she’s ever in a relationship with…To be feared instead of having it lol! He said in a talk I attended once: “fuck what people think,” and THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER proves that he really means that, and that he practices that disregard most wholly with those he is most intimate with.
I actually find it refreshing, but I was wondering if there was a reason behind that.I’m already fucking half nuts. But his portrayals have also helped feed rumors about how much of himself is written as Yunior. I think anything that’s good about my writing comes from my resisting my desire for attention and approval. When all is said and done we humans live, survive, and eventually die by example for this reason we MUST break unhealthy cycles and cultivate good ones.
And yet despite these many parallels, Diaz would be the first to admit that he both is and is not the hero of his short stories.
I can write shit that risks my readership, and the one thing that I know is that my readership is predominantly female. When I decided to finish this book about a real fucked-up scumbag cheater, I still remember the early notes I got back from my female friends when the book was done like, “Dude, you need to game it a little bit, make the female characters less from his selfish, narcissistic point of view.”Can you envision yourself ever leaving Yunior’s universe? I think hopefully my next book won’t be about him. The dream – when I used to have a dream of productivity – would be that I’d write a few books about him, and write a few books about some other shit.
Among our primary consumptions are images of black bodies as being hip, as being renegade, as being kinda fucking dangerous, even if they’re malign imaginaries.
I’m like that dude who can’t even promise his kids breakfast right now.  “Monstro,” at least in part, is an apocalypse novel about the spread of an infectious disease that originates in Haiti.

What I think is incredibly fascinating is that this is occurring while the president is pushing a war. I’m not saying that’s what these cats are doing – Lethem’s been in the game from the beginning. Seamus Heaney just died, and one of the great obituaries of him was a wonderful quote he had about being on the side of undeceiving. And I always thought that something like the Onion is the deceiver that undeceives, which is what fiction at its best attempts to do.
Literary writers can attack new markets without ever losing their cachet as literary writers.
She argued that we’d never question whether we like Raskolnikov or any of Jonathan Franzen’s characters or even Oscar Wao. Does she have a point? I’m going from hearsay here, but I can imagine the sort of umbrage she took. There’s a profound trivialization of literature in the way that it is used and, yes, if you’re a woman or a person of color, there are certain biases that are built in. A genre writer who is classically genre, writing a genre book, will not get a fucking Guggenheim.I’m less interested in a kind of artistic zeitgeist as much as I am in IPE, international political economy.
But one thing I’ve never had is the privilege of being reviewed by anyone who’s able to talk about how much black American vernacular and music is my American baseline.
There’s no fucking question.But I get people saying “I don’t like Yunior” or “I don’t like Oscar” all the time. When people say that to me, I always remind them that in the same way that I’m a more complex person when I write, you’re a more complex person when you read. Part of my interest in doing a genre book was actually to put that question front and center. I’ve always thought Yunior’s voice isn’t possible without hip-hop.So as a Jersey kid, were you a big Redman fan? Are you crazy? The real question for me as the writer is why you’re friends with the people you’re friends with. Because the funny thing about being a person of color is you’re already being considered a fucking genre, you know? Or better yet, you’re already being considered science fiction.Have you been following any of the drama surrounding the adaptation of “Ender’s Game”?This is the problem with thinking you know your artists. When I look at the kids that are coming up, they look nothing like the writers that we’re all running around calling the voice of this country.
Despite what we would like to think, the lag time between what a culture recognizes as its country and what the country is, my brother, is quite extraordinary. Outside of a few strains, I feel like the literary apparatus still thinks of this country very much in the 1950s.  Do you see any parallels between publishing and academia?Oh, yeah. Orson Scott Card is a cretinous fool in his political life, and yet when he wrote this one book, something else came together.
If anything prepared me for a place like MIT or a place like publishing, it was being an immigrant from an illegal parent, trying to enter American society.
Jersey prepped me real good.In an interview with the Rumpus, you said you thought the linked story collection could capture certain aspects of the human experience better than a novel or an anthology. There’s a clear narrative arc from the first to the last stories of “This Is How You Lose Her.” Do you ever worry about readers consuming your fiction out of order?There are many other easier ways to write books, but I am deeply attracted to the game of collaboration.
When you write a collection like this, it permits your reader to create their own books in ways that I don’t think a novel necessarily can.
I have readers that put together books that are wildly different than the ones that I imagined.
When I see that difference and disparity, that’s when I can say I’ve given enough material for readers not only to build their own cathedrals, but something entirely unique if they wish.

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