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Pulitzer Prize-winning author gives advice to students

Published: February 21, 2013, 2:27 am ET
Madeline Smith /The Collegian
“Art has this very strange way of being defiant," said Junot Diaz, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, at his question and answer session on Tuesday.
Collegian Reporter

An audience of about 250 people, primarily comprising of students, attended a guest lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz on Tuesday at the Jepson Alumni Center.

Díaz was the second speaker in the Performing Texts series, which is sponsored by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The events are geared toward the way in which authors perform their texts, as well as the way in which texts themselves perform.

“I’m attracted to what literature does,” Díaz said. “As an artist you’ve got to do something new.”

Although he read a few excerpts of his work, Díaz’s presentation mainly took the form of a conversation with his audience, answering questions with anecdotes about his life and work.

The novelist emphasized the importance of treating others with compassion and encouraged Richmond students to use their time during college as an opportunity to transform themselves and the way they approach the world.

Díaz, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, shared stories of his upbringing and talked about the power of language within the world of culture.

“I, as a writer, find myself trying as best as I can to describe not only the micro-culture that I grew up in, but some of what that leads to,” he said.

He shared his thoughts on immigration and its significance to American culture, society and infrastructure. America can’t exist without its immigrants, whether legal or illegal, but what comprises legality has always been dynamic, he said.

Díaz also spoke about the relationship between his professional work and his influence within debates about immigration.

“You have no sense of the political work your art can do,” he said. “Art has this very strange way of being defiant.”

Díaz has been featured on numerous New York Times bestseller lists, and his first novel, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” won him a Pulitzer Prize.

His writing has been featured in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Time Out, Glimmer Train, Story and African Voices. His latest story collection, “This is How You Lose Her,” was published last September.

Díaz currently works as a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Contact reporter Mara LugoRudner at mara.lugorudner@richmond.edu

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