Junot Díaz on Becoming a Writer

Junot Díaz (Photo via Manhattan Times)

Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” spoke with young artists recently at the George Washington Educational Campus about his experiences and struggles in becoming a writer. From the outset, he said, his family wanted something else for him. Desiree Johnson and Gregg McQueen of Manhattan Times report:

“I came from a family that wanted me to find a good job that won some pocket change,” said Díaz, a statement that drew near-instant murmurs of understanding from the two dozen students.

“I was young when I started using art as my sort of haven,” he said. “Eventually you find out if you love it or not because you keep doing it.”

Success didn’t come easily – “At first, nobody paid attention except for Dominicans and writing nerds,” said Díaz, who switched between English and Spanish in his remarks. And the writer noted that artists must be willing to take risks and withstand failure.

For members of the audience, many of them drama students at the High School of Media and Communications (HSMC), the words Díaz shared were meaningful.

Columbia senior Ricardo Suniga said Díaz’s advice on facing fears resonated with him. Born and raised in Mexico, Suniga remarked that his status as an immigrant has at times made him reluctant to assert himself.

“It’s at the core of your fears at times, for people of color, that you don’t belong in a certain place,” he said. “Sometimes you won’t want to apply or reach for things because you fear you won’t succeed.”

“When Junot said that we should take risks and not be afraid to fail, that really stood out to me,” Suniga added.

Learn the reactions of other students who heard Díaz at Manhattan Times.

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