The Bushwick Book Club Seattle kicks off its sixth season with music inspired by Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I wanted to learn more about both the author and the book in preparation for the show. I took to the Internet to find out some additional facts.
Here is what I found:
Writer’s block had him down for years.
In 2009 Díaz wrote a piece for O, The Oprah Magazine that recounted his years’ long struggle to get past the 75-page-mark in his novel. Writing of the struggle he said,
“It was like I had somehow slipped into a No-Writing Twilight Zone and I couldn’t find an exit. Like I’d been chained to the sinking ship of those 75 pages and there was no key and no patching the hole in the hull. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, but nothing I produced was worth a damn.”
The column is an eye-opening look of how a very successful and award winning author struggled to become a writer.
He’s currently a professor at MIT.
As if winning the Pulitzer prize wasn’t enough, Díaz currently teaches undergraduate writing courses for the Comparative Media Studies/Writing Department at MIT including classes on world-building and “Advanced Fiction.” Earlier this year, Salon posted the reading lists to those classes and the lists include graphic novels like Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and young adult smash The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and a prerequisite of watching Star Wars: A New Hope. Díaz’s interests seem to mirror that of his nerdy character Oscar Wao.
He really is a geek. No really.
Much like his character Oscar Wao, Díaz really is a geek. He’s a huge fan of the Dune series, Ray Bradbury and Akira. He’s dreamed of writing and publishing a science fiction novel for years and has an excerpt of his current project “Monstro” included in The New Yorker’s first science fiction issue. Wired interviewed Díaz about his love of science fiction and struggles to write it in their Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.
Sidenote: For more on Ray Bradbuy, check out some songs by Bushwick Book Club Seattle artists from the Fahrenheit 451 performance.
Feminists often pepper him with questions about gender at his readings.
*photo by Karla Bernardo
Oft-used character Yunior de Las Casas is what many might call a sexist pig. He appears throughout Díaz’s work including Wao and both his debut short-story collection and latest one, Drown and This Is How You Lose Her, respectively. At appearances, women often ask the author why he wrote such a misogynistic character and accuse him of being sexist. Meanwhile, other women applaud the way he wrote Yunior as complex. The Atlantic detailed Díaz’s use of Yunior and the public’s response to the character in a 2012 article.
Watership Down made him a reader.
Díaz had never seen a library before his family immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s and his neighborhood library was a huge part of his childhood. After reading Richard Adams’ Watership Down, Díaz knew he would be a lifelong reader. The Center for Fiction often asks authors what book made them a reader and they profiled Díaz, along with October Bushwick author, Stephen King, among others. (This October on Halloween night we present original music inspired by by Stephen King’s Carrie.)
Now we’re all better prepared for the show! Do you know more about Junot Díaz or love a particular fact about him? If so, please comment and let us know.