"Stop smoking crack. For real. Cut-the-[expletive]. Immigrants ain't even on the top ten. Yeah, how about the fact that my nephews have been on military duty non-stop for ten years? How about the fact that we as a country seem like we can't spend six months not at war? Or the fact that our economic elite have basically immiserated the majority of the nation? Or that there's less financial aid for students than there is financial aid for oil companies? (cheering from crowd). Like, c'mon. These issues have real bone-breaking effects on those being victimized. But on those who mobilize them, they're nothing more than obfuscation; obfuscation of their own elitist economic promise." Junot Díaz is candid. Especially when it involves immigration in this country and the government's prioritization of the issue.
Clad in a hoodie and jeans, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author spoke and gave a reading at "An Evening with Junot Díaz" Saturday at UNC's Memorial Hall as part of Hispanic Heritage month. Throughout his talk he alternated between pontificating on Latino issues, and joking with the audience, often in slang as characteristic of his writing. The audience embraced him, even those who had not read his work.
Junot is arguably one of the most acclaimed Latino writes of his generation. He is best known for his books The New York Times bestseller, This Is How You Lose Her, and his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The Dominican Republic-born, New Jersey-raised author also is an activist on behalf of the Latino community -- critical of immigration policy in the United States.
Like Junot, his characters are honest and uncensored. He often writes in the "you" when his narrators speak, weaving cultural Spanglish phrasing. One student, discernibly an admirer of his work, politely questioned his cultural authenticity -- for example, the use of colloquialism. Junot's response was lighthearted and, not surprisingly, blunt:
"The thing is this, right, it's that here is the joke. The joke is that it is fiction. It is ALL a gimmick you guys. This isn't me pretending to be me. In other words the thing is a [expletive] lie. How can there be claims of authenticity?...The best way for folks to think about it is that it is already an act of fiction."
(photograph taken at UNC Memorial Hall in Chapel Hill)