“Art has a way of confronting us, of reminding us, of engaging us, in what it means to be human,” author Junot Díaz has written, “and what it means to be human is to be flawed, is to be contradictory, is to be often weak, and yet despite all of these what we would consider drawbacks, that we’re also quite beautiful.”
A former MacArthur fellow, Díaz, whose novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award, will share his words and wisdom as the University of Virginia’s fourth Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence from Jan. 23 to Feb. 11.
Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey, Díaz is the author of the critically acclaimed short-story collections “Drown” and “This Is How You Lose Her,” the latter a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. Díaz also received the PEN Malamud Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the PEN O. Henry Award. Currently the fiction editor at Boston Review, he is the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
During his residency, Díaz will visit classes in English, Latin American Studies, and African and African-American Studies. He also will meet with students living in the International Residential College, which made “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” its summer read. In addition, he will lead master classes and meet with M.F.A. and undergraduate prose writers.
He will read his fiction Jan. 25 at 5 p.m. in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom. On Feb. 2, he and Njelle Hamilton, a UVA assistant professor of English and in the Carter G. Woodson Institute of African-American and African Studies, will discuss “Writing Race, Futurity and Apocalypse in the Afro-Caribbean Diaspora.” That event and a Feb. 7 lecture, “First You Must Rebel, or: How I Stopped Writing White and Got Free,” will also take place at 5 p.m. in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom.
The Kapnick Foundation Distinguished Writer-in-Residence Endowment was inspired by UVA’s first writer-in-residence, William Faulkner, who came to the University to consult, lecture and write for the spring semesters of 1957 and 1958. It was created to bring writers of international stature to the University to teach and engage with students and the literary community.
Diaz follows the most recent Kapnick writer, Lydia Davis, who visited UVA in November. Author Jane Alison, professor and director of the Department of English’s Creative Writing Program, said, “The writing of Davis and Díaz speaks powerfully to readers all over the world, and their formal innovations – starkly different as they are – have recharged recent literary fiction. Their work is particularly inspiring to our young writers; their presence will invigorate the literary community both on Grounds and well beyond.”