Indiana University Bloomington

Pulitzer-winning author Junot Diaz to give public reading in Bloomington for IU workshop

  • March 31, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz will visit Bloomington on Tuesday, April 8, to give a free public reading of his work, the headline event for an Indiana University workshop on "Science Fiction in the Americas."

Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. His novel, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and a National Book Critics Circle Award. He is also the author of two collections of short stories, the critically acclaimed "Drown" and "This Is How You Lose Her," a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the National Book Award.

He will give a public reading at 8 p.m. April 8 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., in downtown Bloomington. The event is free, but tickets are required; they are available from the Buskirk-Chumley box office.

The "Science Fiction in the Americas" workshop, organized by the Department of American Studies and the Latino Studies Program in the College of Arts and Sciences, will also include an academic panel discussion, open to the public, at 1 p.m. April 8 in the Frangipani Room of the Indiana Memorial Union. Panelists will include M. Elizabeth Ginway, associate professor of Portuguese, University of Florida; Emily Maguire, associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Northwestern University; and De Witt Kilgore, associate professor of English, IU Bloomington.

"Junot Díaz is one of the most dynamic and compelling contemporary fiction writers. His work challenges us to look closely at constructions of ethnic and national boundaries and identities," said Deborah Cohn, chair of the Department of American Studies. "We're excited that he's coming to campus and will offer a reading for the larger Bloomington community."

Díaz, a graduate of Rutgers University, is the fiction editor of Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at MIT. He was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship in 2012 and is the recipient of the PEN/Malamud Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the PEN/O. Henry Award.

He is currently working on a science fiction novel set in Haiti and the Dominican Republican and featuring zombie figures and a virus pandemic. An excerpt, titled "Monstro," appeared in The New Yorker magazine's first science fiction issue in June 2012. In "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," the title character is obsessed with and writes science fiction and fantasy, an obsession the book's narrator attributes to the wrenching disruption of relocating from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey.

The IU workshop will offer perspectives on how science fiction operates in a transnational context, focusing in particular on how authors and filmmakers throughout the Americas use the genre to engage with questions of power. It builds on other programs at IU Bloomington that speak to issues of race and ethnicity in literature and film, including the April 3 to 5 Latino Film Festival and Conference at the IU Cinema.

Organized by American Studies and Latino Studies, Díaz's visit is also supported by the College of Arts and Sciences; the Office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs; the College Arts and Humanities Institute; the departments of African American and African Diaspora Studies, Spanish and Portuguese, Comparative Literature, and English; the Asian American Studies Program; the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies; the Institute for Advanced Study; the Multidisciplinary Ventures and Seminars Fund; and the Mellon Innovating International Research, Teaching and Collaboration Award program under the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, IU Bloomington.

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Junot Díaz

Junot Díaz | Photo by Nina Subin

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Steve Hinnefeld