Congratulations, Señor Díaz


Díaz, flanked by Packer and Barry (Photo: Toni Gauthier)

I fell in love with Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao while writing about the author’s appearance two years ago with ZZ Packer and Lynda Barry.  I didn’t mean to read half the book while writing a short article, but I was desperate to find out what he meant by the book’s “Dr. Manhattan structure—the exploded book.”

The author has retained a warm spot in my heart.  So I was pleased to hear he will serve on the Pulitzer Board (the Associated Press notes that the Pulitzer awards “the most prestigious prizes in journalism” — I guess AP forgot that they award prestigious prizes in poetry and fiction as well).

Díaz grew up in Parlin, N.J., and describes his childhood as ”working poor, welfare, Section 8, living next to a landfill.”  He described the appointment as a “wonderful honor” and said, “The Pulitzer Prize absolutely fundamentally changed my life and career as an artist.”

Co-chairman of the board David Kennedy, a Pulitzer historian himself, said the board is excited to have Díaz, and described him as a fresh new voice in the Pulitzer decision-making.  He is, apparently, the first Latino on the board.  Díaz’s reaction:

”How come I am not surprised?” said Diaz, who emphasized that he was only the second Latino in Pulitzer history to have received the prize in fiction. ”I guess that I’m standing in for hundreds of other qualified writers, artists who should have been in that position before me. That’s always what I think about when people tell you, oh, you’re the first. Man, that’s not really the way it should have been.”

Congratulations, Señor Díaz.

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