Junot Diaz on Literary Criticism and Race

By Dianna Dilworth 

Award-winning author Junot Diaz feels that critics oversimplify his work.

In a conversation with New Yorker critic Hilton Als at The Strand in New York, Diaz reveals that often critics can’t see past his Dominican origins when reviewing his work. Lit Hub has a transcription of the talk. Here is an excerpt:

…whenever I read about people of color as artists I think it is so overly simplified. We tend to be reduced to the cultural element. Like somebody will trot out a Spanish word to describe our thing . . . How many reviews have I got where a non-Spanish-speaking person will put out a Spanish word to attempt to describe what I do? It’s like watching people who can’t dance salsa trying to do it. Or we’ll be reduced to simplistic visions that say that in these works of art, this artist is talking about this crucial moment, or about the problem of race.