Latino Studies Junot Díaz
Sarah Quesada
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0137


The renowned Dominican American writer Junot Díaz (b. 1968) is a polymath of many talents: A winner of the Pulitzer Prize and McArthur Genius awards, a human rights activist, a journalist, an MIT Creative Writing professor, a public intellectual, and a troubadour of the African diaspora. He has risen to prominence against painstaking odds, translating his ontology into a mastery of genre and aesthetics. Díaz paints the world through a Borgesian Aleph lens: Multiple realities all at once that reach far across the globe. In other words, his writing registers both “mean streets” and academic erudition and alternates between local structures of racial inequality and world-systems theory, always infused with a healthy dose of profanity and humor. It is fair to say that the tropes of his writing extend into his activism, as Díaz has served on the steering committee for Freedom University and remains vocal against reiterations of settler colonialism. He has most famously condemned the Dominican Sentencia that strips Haitian Dominicans of their birthrights; a seething criticism that prompted the Dominican Republic to revoke his Order of Merit. As if energized by civil disobedience, Díaz channels world-systems theorists such as Gloria Anzaldúa, Aníbal Quijano, and Michel Foucault to philosophically meditate on the most urgent contemporary concerns, including climate change, the rise of white supremacy, homophobia, sexism, colonialism, neoimperialism, and even the looming specter of zombies (metaphorically or otherwise). To date, Díaz has published his Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (“TBWLOW,” 2007); two highly acclaimed collections of short stories, Drown (1997) and This Is How You Lose Her (2013); and the children’s book Islandborn (2018). Top journals have published several of his short stories and essays, such as “Homecoming, with Turtle” (2004), “Wildwood” (2007), “Apocalypse: What Disasters Reveal” (2011), “MFA vs POC” (2014), and “The Mongoose and the Émigré” (2017). His short-story “Monstro” (2012), a sci-fi Afrofuturist tale, is believed to constitute part of his second and developing novel. He has also been featured several times (1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2013) in, and recently edited (2016), the renowned The Best American Short Stories collection as well as in a number of American literary anthologies. For instance, he has written the introduction or foreword to Beacon Best of 2001: Great Writing by Women and Men of All Colors and Cultures (2001), Latinos, Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People (2012), Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing from the VONA/ Voices Writing Workshop (2014), and Letters to Palestine: Writers Respond to War and Occupation (2015). Most recently, Díaz added his voice to the hashtag “MeToo” Movement, publishing an essay concerning his rape as an eight-year-old boy and in the wake of the publication of his children’s book. Perplexingly, not even a month following his confessional, reports emerged accusing Díaz of sexual misconduct and bullying. The final section of this article addresses Díaz’s personal essay concerning his rape, the allegations against his personal behavior that followed, and the reports from MIT (which conducted a thorough investigation of the case) that cleared Díaz of significant wrongdoing. Although Díaz has published only three books, analysis of his corpus is quite extensive and varied. Thus, the General Overview section offers a non-exhaustive selection of some of the major scholarly contributions of his holistic work. The rest of the article also gives a non-exhaustive list of anthologies, analysis monographs, and journal articles that treat, separately, each of Díaz’s most acclaimed works. The final entries on his pedagogy, his activism, and his public persona speak to Díaz’s heterogeneous personality. This section offers insights into the many ways Díaz exists as both an author and a public figure across the globe.

General Overview

Since the publication of Drown in 1996, numerous anthologies and encyclopedic texts reference Díaz’s oeuvre. References are cited that delve into the specifics of Literary Analysis applied to his works in general, followed by encyclopedic references in literary and cultural studies anthologies.

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