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Junot Diaz
Identity and the Convergence of Cultures

Junot Diaz
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Junot Diaz, a Dominican American writer, is a master of the combinatorial, the high and low brow, the bridge between intellect, crudeness, colloquial, and many silent histories. He’ll have characters using two or more registers of banter, and flip through Spanish and English, and then throw in a region-specific reference as well. He is an utter and quintessential confluence whose books have redefined how we look at identity, homeland, the lasting effects of the convergence of culture and history. 

“I write through silence,” he said at his recent appearance at University of Manoa in Hawaii. “My characters are what’s left off the page.” Indeed, for all the references he actively makes, more is left unsaid, and it is that power of words which Diaz finds most intriguing, and most effective in his own storytelling. 

For all the singularities of Diaz’s life, many similarities can be drawn when considering other Caribbean authors like V.S. Naipaul, Edwidge Danticat, Alejo Carpentier, Aimé Césaire, Claude Mckay, and Derek Walcott to name just a few. Each has developed a unique style despite the weight of the histories and cultures that birthed them. Luigi Sampietro says in his essay The Specificity of Caribbean Literature, “The Caribbean experience becomes true literature when the resentment and remorse of the heirs of colonialism are transmuted, no longer grist for rhetoric but the object of the writer’s search for self-knowledge.”
It is no surprise that Caribbean writers are as geographically influenced as their countries are. Yet the sieve they’ve created to tell their experiences on a basic human level is completely their own. In many senses, this is the perfect mixture for an artist, and writers in particular: one who is a polyglot, wafting between places, and an insider and an outsider to more than one ‘home’. Through this, one comes to understand the shifting of paradigms and perspectives.

Diaz’s latest work is a collection of love stories called This Is How You Lose Her, a book that tackles love—one of the oldest stories of humanity—from the little told perspective of a Dominican American. The voice is so authentic and relatable on a base human level, that the culture divisions easily melt away. It remains apparent however, when paying attention to the silence, that Diaz is deeply educated about his Caribbean and American identity. 
For further reading into Caribbean Literature and studies, check out Diaspora, Identity and Language Communities, The Role of Resistance in Caribbean Literature, The Caribbean at Mid-Century, and Claude McKay’s poetry all accessible within our website.

by Thad Higa
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