Cultura y conciencia

Dominican Republic's Top Academic Nerd Penetrates Prestigious Committee: Junot Díaz Named Among 20-Member Pulitzer Board & the Envy Brought Upon

Nelson Santana

This article is a prelude to a comprehensive paper that analyzes Junot Díaz’s writings and the attitude of his peers toward him.

Written by Nelson Santana
June 7th, 2010

New York -- Some love him while others detest him, but no one can deny Junot Díaz 's talent as he continues his forthright path toward intellectual immortality.

In 2008 Junot Díaz became the 2nd Latino since Cuban-American writer Oscar Hijuelos to capture the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

On the 20th of May the Pulitzer announced Díaz would serve on the Pulitzer Board, thus becoming the first Latino / Hispanic elected to the prestigious board, a three year commitment.

Unparalleled in his writing, the eminent Díaz is a rare species of admirably infrequent writers to have ever graced the earth.


Academic Circles

Oftentimes despised by those within academic circles, Díaz has had to endure the falsity that unfolds inside academia. On the surface, Dominican and American academic elite alike acknowledge Díaz’s accomplishments, since it is impossible for his uncanny talent as a writer to go about unnoticed.

Nevertheless, no prodigy ever goes without criticism. Among Dominican historians and academics the general consensus is that Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao provides readership with erroneous information pertinent to Dominican history. Many of these academics and historians consider him a failed revisionist.

By the same token there exists a group of American academics who scrutinize over Díaz’s vernacular, dissecting what he says word-for-word, thus deeming him a ticking time bomb. On occasion certain people and groups – who shall remain nameless – have regretted inviting him to their lectures, conferences or other speaking engagements due to the sincerity of his dialect, which embraces the English language, very much in the same manner William Shakespeare did during his time.

Interestingly enough, the same group of Dominican academics who consider Díaz a failed revisionist writer – some do not even regard him an author– are the first to state the reason his fiction – comprised of Dominicans and Dominican-Americans – has been recognized is due to the fact that he exploits his compatriots.

It is not in Dominican academics’ best interest to downplay the worth of Díaz’s aptitude; at least not an author, writer, novelist, editor, columnist who has surpassed the counterparts of his time and all Dominican and Dominican-Americans who have grasped the English language, as his accomplishments will breathe forever etched in stone.                                                                                     

Wondrous Díaz’s Remnants of Greatness

For more than a decade Díaz has captivated audiences with his writing. He is best known for his Pulitzer-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and also for his collection of short stories Drown. In like manner, Díaz's writing also has been featured in numerous journals and magazines including The New Yorker, African Voices, Gourmet, The Paris Review, Best American Short Stories and The O’Henry Prize Stories 2009 among other reputable publications.

In addition to the Pulitzer, Díaz’s fiction has garnered him numerous honors including the Eugene McDermott Award, a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, a Lila Acheson Wallace Readers Digest Award, the 2002 Pen/Malamud Award, the 2003 US-Japan Creative Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Other achievements include The New Yorker naming Díaz as one of the 20 top writers for the 21st century and the Bogota Book Capital of World and the hay Festival selected him as one of the 39 most important Latin American writers under the age of 39.

Born in Villa Juana, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Díaz emigrated to the United States prior to reaching the age of ten.

From his humble beginnings in Dominican Republic, Díaz is an author who refuses to forget his past, contrary to other successful U.S. academic immigrants.