Introduction to Latina and Latino Literature/Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz edit

Brief Biography edit

Junot Diaz is an iconic Dominican American author who writes modern Latino literature that is read worldwide. Born in the Dominican Republic in 1968, he spent his early years living with his grandmother and mother. Diaz emigrated to the United States and resided in Parlin, New Jersey where he found his father. Junot attended Madison Park Elementary School where he developed a love for reading—he often walked extensive distances to borrow books from the library. After graduating from Cedar Ridge High School, Junot attended Kean College for one year, and completed his BA in English at Rutgers University in 1992. Junot Diaz went on to work as an editorial assistant at Rutger's University Press, and pursue on a MFA(Master of Fine Arts) from Cornell University. Junot Diaz has since published a myriad of novels and short stories, and currently teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[1][2][3]

Place in Latina/o Literature edit

Junot Diaz's work explicitly describes the Latina/o American experience in an urban and contemporary setting—he has been named one of the top twenty writers of the 21st century by The New Yorker magazine. Diaz also received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which tells the story of a nerdy, eccentric Dominican boy whom Diaz intended to defy all stereotypical perceptions of Latinos.

Comparison to Other Latino Authors edit

Dominican-American writer Junot Diaz boasts accomplishments that are strikingly similar to that of Cuban-American writer Virgil Suarez. Both are children of the 60's and foreign-born Latinos. Both Junot and Virgil received MFA's and are professors of English Writing. The two authors are also revered by the mass media—both The New Yorker and New York Times have featured and honored the literary works of Virgil and Junot. In Junor Diaz's This Is How You Lose Her, Yunior is a lust-driven romantic who cannot remain faithful to one woman—his desire always leads him to infidelity, even when he has a lot to lose. Yunior's cheating tendencies are compulsive—he cannot help himself. Yunior is similar to the narrator in Virgil Suarez's short story "Settlements", who has the habit of leaving situations that are uncomfortable and out of his control. The narrator, like Yunior, is cultured, young, Latino, artistic, misguided, and insistent upon proving maturity to everyone around them. Yunior's uncontrollable desires, and the narrators lack of assertion causes both young men to lose the great women in their lives.

Analysis of Specific Texts edit

“You try every trick in the book to keep her. You write her letters. You drive her to work. You quote Neruda. You compose a mass e-mail disowning all your sucias. You block their e-mails. You change your phone number. You stop drinking. You stop smoking. You claim you’re a sex addict and start attending meetings. You blame your father. You blame your mother. You blame the patriarchy. You blame Santo Domingo. You find a therapist. You cancel your Facebook. You give her the passwords to all your e-mail accounts. You start taking salsa classes like you always swore you would so that the two of you could dance together. You claim that you were sick, you claim that you were weak—It was the book! It was the pressure!—and every hour like clockwork you say that you’re so so sorry. You try it all, but one day she will simply sit up in bed and say, No more, and, Ya, and you will have to move from the Harlem apartment that you two have shared. You consider not going. You consider a squat protest. In fact, you say won’t go. But in the end you do.”(130)

In “This Is How You Lose Her”, Diaz tells the tale of a young Dominican man named Yunior who loves to write fiction that is mosty inspired by his life of debauchery and breaking the hearts of women. Yunior encounters a myriad of women in a period of five years, and he is conflicted by sexual desire and gender based expectations—he cannot be faithful to any one woman for too long, despite the depth of his love for her. In this passage, Yunior describes the many tactics he exercised in attempts to keep his ex-fiancée who discovered adulterous emails with fifty different women in his inbox. Diaz showcases cultural diversity in Yuniors character—he reads the love poems of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, deletes his Facebook, pledges to take salsa dance classes, and blames his dishonest actions on the development of his novel. The passage exposes Yunior's identity, which is similar to that of Junot Diaz's—he is a cultured Latino-American who reads Neruda, wishes to dance salsa, enjoys writing and the contemporary recreation of Facebook. Yunior is relatable to any Latino/a American, writer, cheater, man, or youth in the 21st century.

Literary Criticism edit

Literary scholar and Harvard professor Glenda Carpio states that “Since his literary debut in 1996, the Dominican writer Junot Díaz has been giving sharp-witted eloquence to the complexities of being Afro-Latino and an immigrant in the United States”(2009). Diaz is educated and cultured—in his stories, he precariously depicts the Latino American experience in a way that speaks to all audiences. Carpio also unpacks the American dream by likening Diaz's literary perspective and tone to that of actor-comedian Groucho Marx who sarcastically noted that “American streets are paved with gold”(2009)—Diaz presents the stories of once hopeful immigrants who have yet to walk streets of gold and are expected to pave them over themselves. Carpio explains that Junot Diaz “focuses…on the craft and the art of showing, in language, what it means to be black, Latino, and immigrant in America”.[4]

Links to Online Copies of Texts edit

Bibliography of Secondary Sources edit

Lopez, Adriana. "Nerdsmith." Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics. Guernica, 7 July 2009. Web. 12 June 2014.

Carpio, Glenda. "New Immigrant Tales: Junot Diaz and Afro-Latino Fiction." New Immigrant Tales: Junot Díaz and Afro-Latino Fiction. IIP Digital, 09 Feb. 2009. Web. 15 June 2014.

"Junot Díaz." Junot Díaz. Web. 15 June 2014.

Díaz, Junot. This Is How You Lose Her. New York: Riverhead, 2012. Print.

References edit