Junot Diaz charms crowd, inspires students
Popular author Junot Díaz came to speak at the University on Sept 17 in Schneebeck Concert Hall.
Díaz is the author of two short story collections: Drown and This is How You Lose Her, a New York Times best-seller and National Book Award finalist. He also wrote the novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. He is currently a professor of English at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
When the audience sat down for the evening with Junot Díaz, most were expecting the quiet, intellectual civil rights writer who began his talk by graciously thanking the University for the opportunity to speak. However, 44-year-old Díaz was soon cracking jokes, using slang and swear words and reading slightly raunchy material from his book.
The audience laughed at a lot of his comments and few seemed bothered by the cursing.
“I felt like he was speaking in a casual way, as truly himself which I thought was cool,” junior Eric Sculac said. “I liked [his cussing]; I think it added a good addition to the performance,” said Freshman Katie Walton. “I didn’t expect it at first because he was so modest and quiet when he walked onstage.”
He truly made an attempt to connect with audience members, and spent most of the lecture answering questions from the audience. While there were some flippant questions—one student boldly asked when he lost his virginity, which Díaz abstained from answering–many questions elicited a thoughtful response from him.
Some people asked about his writing style, others asked for his opinions on radicalism and immigrant rights, while others asked what scares and inspires him.
Díaz tailored his answers to his audience, discussing the fears that young people have today, such as leaving college with no job prospects and living other people’s dreams. He encouraged students to realize the potential of their dreams and not to be afraid. Fear, he believes, is what keeps us from unlocking our potential.
When asked about what inspired him, he did not answer with a book title or a single person; instead, he simply said that a community inspires him, emphasizing the importance of having a close group of friends who truly care about you.
He also read an excerpt from This is How You Lose Her about an old girlfriend. The audience loved the passage, and many were laughing as well.
“[The excerpt] showed that he knows [what message] he wants to tell,” freshman Kyle Ryan commented.
“I saw him as someone that I want to be, a writer who can express his words eloquently and persuasively,” Sculac said.
Walton said, “I feel like I question my whole life now because he said we always live in fear and now I feel like I need to do something (about that).”
Díaz then posed a question to the audience: “what is college essentially for?” He argued that it is not for ‘trivial bullshit’, as he called it, like making friends and getting a degree. Rather, he stressed the importance of being transformed in college and being an entirely new person when you leave.
“It made me think of why I was even coming to college,” Ryan said. “It made me want to find what I love in the world.”