Literary Heavyweight Junot Díaz to Speak at Hopkins

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Acclaimed Dominican-American novelist Junot Díaz is coming to Shriver Hall in Homewood this week.

Díaz, known to many as the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” is taking a break from teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge this week to speak in Baltimore. He’s the third speaker in JHU’s Foreign Affairs Symposium series, following Pussy Riot co-founder Nadya Tolokonnikova and famed Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New Jersey with his family as a child. He drew on his own life experiences to develop the character of Yunior, a troubled Dominican-American narrator featured prominently in his work.

Díaz rose to literary fame with “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” in 2007 and further cemented it with his 2012 short-collection, “This Is How You Lose Her.” Presently, he works as a creative writing professor at MIT, the fiction editor for the high-minded Boston Review and a board adviser for Freedom University, a volunteer group based in Georgia that offers post-secondary education to undocumented immigrants.

Unsurprisingly, given his background, Díaz has been critical of President Donald Trump, who wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and heavily restrict immigrant and refugee travel to the United States. In a short essay titled “Radical Hope,” published by the New Yorker in November, he wrote that immigrant communities are right to be afraid, but must come together, be ready to fight and retain a sense of optimism about the future.

“And while we’re doing the hard, necessary work of mourning, we should avail ourselves of the old formations that have seen us through darkness,” he wrote. “We organize. We form solidarities. And, yes: we fight. To be heard. To be safe. To be free.”

Díaz has partaken in speaking events in Baltimore before, including at Hopkins’ “American Voces” symposium series four years ago.

Díaz will speak at Shriver Hall on the Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus on Wednesday, Feb. 22, beginning at 8 p.m. Entry is free for the campus community and the general public, though the venue will likely fill up quickly. Tickets for reserved seats can be purchased here.

Ethan McLeod
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