Díaz completed his BA at Rutgers College in 1992, majoring in English. He earned his Masters of Fine Arts from Cornell University.
His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, which listed him as one of the 20 top writers for the 21st century. He has been published in Story, The Paris Review, and in the anthologies, The Best American Short Stories and African Voices.
He received a Eugene McDermott Award, a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the 2002 PEN/Malamud Award, a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and more.
He predicts there will be no more short stories from him, simply because short stories can be perfect and he thrives in the complexity of novels that mirror the difficulty of real life. Readers often complain his work is too complex and would benefit from a glossary. “If you want something easy, watch a TV show, but not all because some are really tough,” he said.
For Díaz, a novel’s purpose is to stimulate the mind and he urged the reader to seek companions for discussions and acquire further knowledge. He said the society in the United States is one that punishes lack of knowledge so when people encounter something they don’t understand they are threatened by their insecurities and shut down the possibility of learning. “This isn’t a test,” he said.
Díaz’s work does include an academic feature: footnotes. He said the purpose of the footnote is to brag about ones intellect but in ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’ they appear as factual anecdotes that immerse the reader further in his work.
“He just throws you into a different culture,” said avid reader and fan Teresa Sroka. She said his astute observations about life, cultures, and family dynamics transforms the reader.
“We really need to get out of our little zip code; he doesn’t look down upon you, instead he just hands you the tools and encouraged you to take your own journey,” said Sroka. She first encountered Díaz through his first book, “Drown,” which is a collection of short stories that became a national bestseller.
Sroka said she would love to take a class with Díaz, who teaches creative writing at MIT. Díaz refers to “Drown” as the loyal friend who defended and supported him through the eleven years it took him to write his latest novel.
Díaz lives in New York and is active in the Dominican community. He credits the respect he has earned to the degree of honest reflection and respect for the community that his work embodies.
Díaz is fascinated by the conflict within the cultural ethnicities that comes through his characters. Through his writing, Díaz has increased his own awareness and sorted out how he truly feels about his own history, community, and personal relationships.
“You can’t hide from yourself; who you really are will reflect in your art,” he said. Díaz relinquishes ownership of his books to the reader, “I, as the author, have no authority to dictate how anyone should read my book; it is yours to read and interpret as you like,” he said.
For more information on CPL’s Writers and Readers Series visit: writersandreaders.cpl.org