Junot Diaz burst onto the literary scene with “Drown,” a collection of short stories voiced by Yunior, a tough-talking Latino struggling to make his way on the streets of New Jersey. Diaz has revived Yunior for his latest book, “This Is How You Lose Her.” Only this time, Yunior is juggling multiple women, and figuring out how to be faithful to his fiancee. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author joins us to talk about the book, and what it takes to be faithful.
On Why He's Fascinated with the Subject of Infidelity
"It's just a great way to sort of discuss a whole range of topics. It's a great way to discuss love. As I kid, I was growing up, you know, my father was in the United States, and my mother and the rest of us were in the Dominican Republic. Our story as young kids was what was holding this family together was my father and my mother's love. We were separated by an ocean, by nations, by language, and yet this family was held together by love — that this was our home. Of course, this was our childhood imagination, and later it didn't turn out to be that at all. But clearly love was something that was very important to us early on. It was the thing that was going to bring us all together.
And I think that for me, what's most interesting about love, where we see love more clearly, where we see what's at stake, where we see what it gives us, where we see the costs, is when love breaks down. When love goes wrong, And you know there's are all these reasons why love goes wrong, but what is more nightmarish than you taking out a knife and plunging a knife into your own love, which is basically what cheating is.
And so that's a part of me that's interested at the abstract level and then there's the fact that I grew up surrounded by boys, my father included, all the way on down, where infidelity was everyday behavior, and it was this kind of boy-omerta. We all saw it happening and no one said anything and I think as an artist you're always attracted to those places where people aren't speaking but where everything is happening."
On How He Was Taught to View Women
"I think that most of us are not aware how we have acquired a vision of women that doesn't really encounter or doesn't really think of them completely, entirely as human beings. I can't really speak for anyone else, but when I honestly think about the way I was taught to think about women, it was completely instrumental.
I grew up with this idea that women were either kind of a mom-like figure, someone who did stuff for you, or a figure of your sexual attention. And that doesn't leave much room in there for there to be more nuanced, more complicated and more human relationships. Nor does it leave room for one to imagine woman as something that is or as people that are utterly independent of our needs, wants — [something other] than instruments."
Junot Diaz, author of books including "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize, and professor of creative writing at MIT