MacArthur “Genius Grant” Winner Junot Diaz Reads @ UAlbany’s Campus Center Today

Junot Diaz (photo by Nina Subin)
Junot Diaz (photo by Nina Subin)
Born in Santo Domingo and raised in New Jersey, author Junot Díaz started off his writing career with a bang. His first novel, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” earned him the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

And, of yeah, the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, too.

On Monday, it was announced that the 43-year-old Diaz – who will be reading at UAlbany today – was also the recipient of a coveted MacArthur Fellows Program award (known more commonly as a “genius grant”), from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. One of this year’s 23 MacArthur Foundations fellows, he will receive $500,000 over the course of the next five years to use in whatever way he chooses.

From the MacArthur Foundation website: “Junot Díaz is a writer whose finely crafted works of fiction offer powerful insight into the realities of the Caribbean diaspora, American assimilation, and lives lived between cultures. Born in the Dominican Republic and living in the United States since adolescence, Díaz writes from the vantage point of his own experience, eloquently unmasking the many challenges of the immigrant’s life. With skillful use of raw, vernacular dialogue and spare, unsentimental prose, he creates nuanced and engaging characters struggling to succeed and often invisible in plain sight to the American mainstream.”

“Thanks to everyone who wrote a letter to make this happen,” Diaz posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday morning. “Thanks to all the teachers and librarians and booksellers who kept me in circulation through the long silences. Thanks to the beautiful readers who did the same. This honor belongs to my community, whose sacrifices and courage and yes genius made me possible. Gratitude without end.”

Tonight, Diaz will likely be reading from his newly published novel, “This Is How You Lose Her,” but who knows? But perhaps he might read from his work-in-progress science fiction novel, an excerpt of which was published in The New Yorker’s first-ever science fiction issue this summer as “Monstro.”

As part of the New York State Writers Institute reading series, Junot Diaz will conduct a seminar at the UAlbany Campus Center’s Assembly Hall at 4:15pm, followed by a reading at the same venue at 8pm. Admission to both events is open to the public and free.

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