Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey from age 6, Junot Diaz is the acclaimed author of the books Drown (1996), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, and This is How you Lose Her (2012). Diaz is both a New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award Finalist. He is currently a professor of writing at MIT and in addition acts as the fiction editor for the Boston Review.
In 2012, Diaz was one of 23 fellows awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in recognition of his use of “raw, vernacular dialogue and spare, unsentimental prose to draw readers into the various and distinct worlds that immigrants must straddle.” His additional accolades include a PEN/Malamud Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a PEN/O. Henry Award.
Also an engaged activist, Diaz co-founded the Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation in 1999, a writing workshop that supports emerging writers of color, and serves on the board of advisors for Freedom University, a volunteer organization in Georgia that provides post-secondary instruction to undocumented immigrants. He also serves as the honorary chairman of the DREAM Project, a nonprofit program that aims to provide equal access to high-quality education for students at all grade levels across the Dominican Republic.
Diaz has been openly critical of immigration policy in the U.S., but is perhaps more controversially known for criticizing the Dominican Republic’s repressive deportation policy in 2015. Diaz, along with fellow writer Edwidge Danticat, publicly condemned the Dominican Republic’s move to potentially deport thousands of Haitians and Dominicans with Haitian ancestry, in 2015, as the government even established “repatriation centers” along its border with Haiti. Calling the political move a human rights crisis, both Diaz and Danticat went before the U.S. Congress to urge congressional leaders to take action.
In response, Diaz faced major backlash in the Dominican Republic, called “antidomincano” by the Consul in New York. He was even stripped of “the Order of Merit awarded to him by the Dominican Republic in 2009.”
If you’re interested in understanding more about Diaz’s writing aesthetic and themes, here’s a really interesting interview he gave to Lit Hub on “masculinity, science fiction, and writing as an act of defiance.”