Junot Díaz Visits Campus
Author-activist Junot Díaz spoke to a packed Filene Auditorium in Moore Hall on Friday October 18. Students, staff, faculty, and community members spilled into the aisles to listen to the Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur “genius grant” winner read from his latest short story collection, This Is How You Lose Her. The event topped off “A Week in Community” sponsored by the Office of Pluralism and Leadership and the Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies (LALACS) Program in honor of Latin@ Heritage Month at Dartmouth.
Dartmouth’s very own Associate Director of Safety and Security, Keiselim Montás, a fellow Dominican writer and longtime friend of Junot Díaz, introduced the author, who delved immediately into a riveting Q&A.
“The event was a great success,” said Montás. “It was also successful beyond the reading piece, which was delightful, but the Q&A was strikingly insightful, the questions were great, and the answers were educational, philosophical, real, down to earth, and inspiring all at the same time.”
As the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Díaz brings a professor’s passion for knowledge along with the street credibility of his Dominican-born, urban New Jersey upbringing. These experiences make his writing versatile and accessible, hilarious yet profound. But Díaz is not as concerned with accessibility as he is with pushing his students, his audiences, and his readership to consider the complexities of immigration, American identity, love, masculinity, and cross-cultural experiences.
“I appreciated that the event had a good range of depth to it,” said Francisco Herrera, a Dartmouth alumnus who attended the event. “Walking out, I felt like there had been some really serious moments but also really light ones too, which was great because it shows how versatile he and his work are.”
It is Díaz’s ability to treat complex subjects lightheartedly, with the ease and humor of a stand-up comedian, but with the acuity of a serious intellectual, that makes him such a powerfully dynamic speaker. He can set the room roaring with laughter at the unapologetic use of an expletive, and expound the intricacies of racial identity in the same breath. He has an unparalleled ability to drive the energy in a room.
The reading from This is How You Lose Her was no less powerful. It was a moment for all of Díaz’s readers to finally audibly experience the poetic wit of his streetwise protagonist, Yunior, and to put a voice to the searing prose that Díaz masterfully conveys on the page.
by Paola Ortega
photo by Henry Paige