Fill That Silence with Words

I’ve been away a while, moving back to Brooklyn and working on my dissertation, but I wanted to share a bit from a recent interview with my man, Junot Diaz, whose This is How You Lose Her came out yesterday.

Can’t wait to get my hands on it.

I grew up in a Dominican community that was totally erased, totally ignored by the mainstream. I grew up never seeing myself or my neighbors or my friends in any kind of literature. I grew up with no books or movies or tv shows that reflected my world, my identities, my struggles. The brief instances my community did appear in, say, the news or books it was always as monsters: either some drug-dealing pathology or illegal immigrant menace. The real us was never shown, totally elided. (In college I read books like Down These Mean Streets and The House on Mango Street and Sula, which came close to showing us, but when it comes to seeing yourself in the representational universe close is never enough.) Growing up I felt that absence, that wound, viscerally — who the hell wants to come up in a hole, in a silence? It’s astounding how little some of us have in this culture to build healthy selves from. The Jeremy Lin phenomena writ large — some groups have thousands upon thousands of athletes that reflect them — some groups have only one or two and when that one or two appears you suddenly realize how long you’ve lived with none. If I had to parse my first motivations for becoming a writer down to one it would have to be my profound desire to battle that fucked-up erasure (which is really a violence) by singing my community out of that silence. I guess that’s really what launched me into the words — I wanted to be part of that movement of artists that were insuring that the next generation wouldn’t have to endure what I endured.


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