Waterbury, CT -When Junot Díaz talks, people listen. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author fascinated fans and newly acquainted readers alike during his stop at Naugatuck Valley Community College on Thurs., Nov. 14. Díaz made NVCC the only community college stop on his international book tour to promote his latest work, This Is How You Lose Her.
Using popular cultural references like Moby Dick and The Hobbit and an easy, colloquial back and forth dialogue, Díaz eased into hot-button topics like immigration, national and social identity, poverty, gender roles, writing and of course, cheating (see book title.)
Asked if he worried about his audience when writing, specifically in terms of his language and cultural relativism, Díaz quipped, “People still read The Hobbit… Look around, do you see any hobbits in here?”
While his phrasing drew smiles, what Díaz was getting at is a philosophy that sits at the heart of Naugatuck Valley Community College’s vision, in which “the word ‘community’ is central.”
“You read not to understand, you read to be in communion,” he continued. “What we call universal stems from its specificity.”
The event was sponsored by the NVCC student newspaper, The Tamarack, which is led by NVCC English professor Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, and student Ken Morse, who serves as senior editor.
"Having an author of Junot Díaz's reputation has the entire staff of The Tamarack excited about his visit,” said Morse before the event. “It's an honor for us to be hosting an event like this."
Both Lantigua-Williams and President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D., became acquainted with Díaz more than a decade ago through the City University of New York’s Dominican Studies Institute. Their continued friendship inspired his stop at the College.
“He knows we have a large Latino student population,” Lantigua-Williams told the Republican-American on Nov. 13. “He was very gracious about it.”
Born in the Dominican Republic and cross-raised in New Jersey, Díaz has been praised for his literary commentary on the Dominican-American experience by Time Magazine, Newsweek, O Magazine and Booklist among others. A 2012 MacArthur Fellow, Díaz earned a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. His most recent work, This Is How You Lose Her, is a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award.
Díaz received a B.A. (1992) from Rutgers University and an M.F.A. (1995) from Cornell University. He was affiliated with Syracuse University (1997–2002) prior to joining the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is currently the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing. For more information visit www.junotdiaz.com.