Latino Literature in America

By Bridget Kevane | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

The Fiction of Junot Díaz: Drown (1996)

Junot Díaz is one of the few male Dominican writers writing in English today. He was born in the Dominican Republic in 1968 and moved to New Jersey with his family when he was six years old. After attending public schools in New Jersey, Díaz graduated from Rutgers University and went on to receive his M.F.A in writing from Cornell University. Describing himself as “the one who left and never really came back” (Rocco 3) to his community except through the written word, Díaz began writing por casualidad (by chance). Soon, however, he became committed to conveying “on paper” his experiences of the life he left behind on the island, and his life as a child in a barrio on the mainland (New York Times Talk Series). Díaz has always felt a profound obligation to write “to [his] community, not about it” (Rocco 3). His acknowledgements in Drown illustrate his commitment; he recognizes, “A debt to the community, especially Barrio XXI. And to those who watch over us.”

Díaz’s stories have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and African Voices. Six of the stories already published, and four new stories, became Drown, published in 1996 to wide critical acclaim. Díaz was named one of Newsweek’s “New Faces of 1996.” Since the publication of Drown, Diaz has continued to publish stories in The New Yorker. One story that stands out is, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” In this black comedy, Díaz explores the life of Oscar de León, a Dominican boy who never quite becomes the traditional macho male. In addition, instead of the tale of an immigrant family moving north, from the island to the mainland, it portrays an established Dominican family in the 1970s, just as

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