By Bill Landauer
“But if these years have taught me anything,” Junot Díaz writes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, “it is this: You can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.”
The Pulitzer-Prize-winning author is the mouthpiece for many Latinos and Latinas, crystallizing their unique experiences of growing up, says Brenda Del Rio ’19 (Dallas, Texas).
“His work is the perfect representation of the lives we live,” says Del Rio, co-president of Hispanic Society of Lafayette (HSL), “and seeing that kind of representation in powerful literature is something that we all look up to. His words are wise and meaningful and real and raw all at the same time, and I think that’s why his work is so important to us.”
And that’s why Díaz’s talk at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, in Colton Chapel is important to so many at the College, she says. In connection with Latinx Heritage Month, when the campus celebrates Hispanic/Latino culture, Díaz’s talk is a chance to commune with an author at the height of his craft who “understands the issues and burdens that people of color go through not just in life but also in higher education,” Del Rio says.
A stroke of good luck led to Díaz’s visit to Lafayette. The families of Fraynette Familia ’20 (Bronx, N.Y.), also an HSL board member, and Díaz are friends. Last semester, Del Rio, Familia, and others from Lafayette attended a conference about Dominican heritage at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. Díaz spoke at the conference and then during a dinner offered to visit Lafayette.
In addition to Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Díaz is the author of Drown and New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist This Is How You Lose Her.
Díaz is the recipient of the Ella Baker Award from the Hurston/Wright Foundation, which recognizes writers for work that advances social justice. He also was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2017.
Díaz is fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“His relevancy in shared experiences is more than enough to draw people to his talk,” Del Rio says. “And if people want to see that and experience his wisdom, then I highly encourage them to go.”