Columbia University announced last week that it has elected Junot Diaz to serve as a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board.
Diaz (picture, via) won the Pulitzer for Fiction in 2008 for his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. He’s written extensively about the experience of being a young Dominican-American in New Jersey and New York (including this little story, which we love.) By our count, Diaz is the only fiction writer on the board, which includes a number of former newspaper editors, bestselling author Thomas Friedman, a couple of academics, and some Columbia University brass, like president Lee Bollinger and the dean of the Journalism School, Nicholas Lemann. One board member speculated that Diaz is the first Latino to serve on the board.
In an interview last Friday with Canadian Business (yes, that’s the publication that got the first word on this story) co-chairman of the Pulitzer board David Kennedy described what he sees in Diaz as a member: “Someone who is sensitive to and immersed in parts of our culture that haven’t received the appreciation … they probably deserve.”
Diaz was born in Santo Domingo, grew up in Parlin, NJ, and now teaches creative writing at M.I.T. He is also the fiction editor of the Boston Review.