Growing the Hell Up: From Middle Earth to NJ


Richard Wolinsky Interviews Junot Díaz in Guernica:

Richard Wolinsky: What prompted you to write then realistic fiction, rather than go directly into science fiction, particularly because people like Octavia Butler were using science fiction, and Chip Delany were using science fiction, in the social context? And Le Guin as well.

Junot Díaz: Well, I can’t speak for any of those three, but they seem to come out of traditions where there had been an enormous body of work about the reality that they’d come out of. Even Samuel R. Delany, Butler, Ursula Le Guin–we already had dozens of books about the African American experience, about the African American experience at Harlem, about the woman’s feminist/intellectual experience. So I think that in some ways there was a certain amount of freedom. Now I’m just sort of thinking aloud.

Whereas, I come at a time where the Dominican diasporic experience was completely non-present. It had been almost barely narrativized. And I felt like my Middle Earth, the world that I was going to retrieve, the world that I was going to create, was this world that no one had ever ever encountered, that no one had ever voyaged to. All the skills that I learned in science fiction and fantasy for world building, I brought to bear in building the world of Yunior de la Casa’s family. Building the world of the Dominican Republic in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and 2000. And in many ways, I feel that no more is Dahlgren a constructed world than The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.