Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Jersey Boy Wins Pulitzer!

Junot Diaz, Dominican -born, short story writere and novelist from New Jersey won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (PS3554 .I259 B75 2007).

For information on the Pulitzers and other book awards see, The Library Blog http://njculibrary.wordpress.com/2008/04/08/the-pulitzer-prize-and-other-book-awards/

The third of five children, Junot Diaz was born in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, and spent his early childhood living with his family in a neighborhood of that city called Barrio XXI. In 1975, when he was seven years old, he immigrated to London Terrace, New Jersey (a suburb of Perth Amboy), which sheltered a large population of recent Hispanic immigrants from the Caribbean. His father abandoned the family soon afterward, leaving Junot and his older brother Rafa in the care of their mother, who spoke little English. Known to family and friends as "Yunior" (the name of a character often found in his short stories), Diaz exhibited early on a talent for writing and storytelling. Somini Sengupta wrote in the New York Times (September 15, 1996) that "Mr. Diaz began writing when he was broken hearted"; his first sustained effort at writing occurred when, as a sophomore in high school, he wrote long letters to Rafa, who was hospitalized at the time for leukemia.

After high school, Diaz entered Kean College, in Union, New Jersey, then transferred to Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he earned a bachelor's degree in literature and history. He continued his studies in the graduate program in creative writing at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York. To support himself while in college, he worked at a variety of odd jobs, including dishwashing, steelworking, and delivering pool tables; after college, he clerked for a pharmaceutical firm in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Diaz told Alexandra Lange for New York (September 16, 1996) that Toni Morrison was a major influence on him during his college years, largely because of "her ability to evoke a community and not to do it with a circus atmosphere like 'See us--we are brown' or 'See us--we are interesting.'"

Diaz's first big break came in 1995 when he sent a story called "Mr. Delightful" to Story magazine, which is deluged with an average of 300 submissions a week. Story's editor, Lois Rosenthal, was so impressed that she called Diaz at once to purchase the manuscript. She published several of his short stories and recommended him to a literary agent, Nicole Aragi, who was similarly captivated. After Rosenthal arranged for Diaz to read to an overflow crowd at KGB, a trendy bar in the East Village section of New York City, book editors began to seek exclusive rights to his works. At a subsequent auction for rights to publish his work, The New Yorker bought two stories, and Riverhead Books, an imprint of G. P. Putnam, agreed to publish a collection of his stories; that collection was issued in 1996 under the title Drown (PS3554.I259 D76 1996 ).
~Biography Reference Bank

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