“Sharing just a list of books, he feared, “feels like a shortcut—like throwing out Sterling from the NBA.””

Salon shares the syllabi of two MIT classes held by Junot Diaz, and asked him about diversity in his classes, after he criticized MFA programs for being too white. For him, it is more about the approach of teaching then about taught texts, but the list isn’t too bad either.

I think the average guy thinks they’re pro-woman, just because they think they’re a nice guy and someone has told them that they’re awesome. But the truth is far from it. Unless you are actively, consciously working against the gravitational pull of the culture, you will predictably, thematically, create these sort of fucked-up representations.

Junot Diaz (via luciaferr)

Look, without our stories, without the true nature and reality of who we are as People of Color, nothing about fanboy or fangirl culture would make sense. What I mean by that is: if it wasn’t for race, X-Men doesn’t make sense. If it wasn’t for the history of breeding human beings in the New World through chattel slavery, Dune doesn’t make sense. If it wasn’t for the history of colonialism and imperialism, Star Wars doesn’t make sense. If it wasn’t for the extermination of so many Indigenous First Nations, most of what we call science fiction’s contact stories doesn’t make sense. Without us as the secret sauce, none of this works, and it is about time that we understood that we are the Force that holds the Star Wars universe together. We’re the Prime Directive that makes Star Trek possible, yeah. In the Green Lantern Corps, we are the oath. We are all of these things—erased, and yet without us—we are essential.

Junot Díaz, “The Junot Díaz Episode“ (18 November 2013) on Fan Bros, a podcast “for geek culture via people of colors” (via kynodontas)

Let em know dad.

(via kenobi-wan-obi)

I think the next time someone gets confused as to possibly why people were hoping Katniss would be portrayed as nonwhite, this quote above is why.

(via thelouringlady)

Excellent points.

In a way, narratives of the struggle of people of color whitewashed into science fiction so they are easily digestible for suburban white people (e.g. me) is the ultimate appropriation (at least in the realm of pop culture/fiction.) All of the struggle, none of the history.

These narratives are compelling and often well told in sci-fi, so I don’t find it surprising or that problematic that more privilege people find themselves in them – that’s what a great* story does. But seen through this lens it is really problematic, as commenters above also point out, when the more privileged parts of the "fandom” then accept only the whitewashed version, and exclude the reading of people of color.

*great as in well-made, compelling, not as in happy, good for the people in the story/history. I’m also sure that I’m not the first person to make these comments.

Junot Diaz on Vampires’ Reflections and Representation.

Via lovingmyselfishard:

““You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist? And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.””

– Junot Diaz 


Tough Teen Writing

Matt de la Peña, wrote a short, beautiful essay for NPR’s Code Switch blog on the hope and perspective reading and writing can give struggling teens and adults from difficult backgrounds like macho working-class or street gangs: 

My professor said something I will never forget when I went and talked to her the following week. Even in the harshest and ugliest of circumstances, she explained, there’s still hope. That’s what she loved most about The Color Purple.

It’s what I loved most, too, I decided.

That hope.

I immediately went in search of other stories that might move me, too. I read all the novels I’d skipped in high school. I read novels by black female authors like Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston. I read Ruth Forman’s first poetry collection so many times I had every line memorized. And when I discovered Hispanic writers like Sandra Cisneros and Junot Díaz and Gabriel García Márquez, it was over. I was hooked. Novels became my secret place to “feel.” My dad and uncles didn’t need to know about it. Neither did my teammates. But I could sense something happening inside of me: reading was making me whole.

The whole reason I started writing this book is because of this image I have of this fourteen-year-old girl, a poor, black, Dominican girl, half-Haitian—one of the Island’s damnés—saving the world. It’s a book is about this girl’s search for—yes—love in a world that has made it its solemn duty to guarantee that poor raced “conventionally unattractive” girls like her are never loved.

apparently the novel junot diaz is working on is going to be the best book ever written, again (via isabelthespy)

Sounds great. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is pretty high on my ‘I’m ashamed I haven’t read it yet’-list. Maybe I’ll read it as a double-header once the new one comes out.