A talk by the award-winning author and MIT Professor of Writing, Junot Diaz, will launch the 2017-18 South End Writes series on Tuesday, January 10 at 6:30 PM. Born in the Dominican Republic in 1968 but raised in New Jersey since he was six, Díaz’s emotionally convincing prose is a seamless, powerful blend of his native language’s descriptive richness and the high-energy, raw lingo of the American urban environment he grew up in. Add to that Diaz’s passion for What Came Before (he was trained as a historian), in the form of many annotations in his work, further illuminating and contextualizing the lives of his unforgettable characters and the places they so vividly inhabit. The result is the full explanation for the dozens of high-octane prizes and honors Diaz has received for his work since stories from his first collection, Drown (1996), were published by The New Yorker in the early 1990s.
In addition to a 2012 MacArthur “Genius” fellowship, they include –but are not limited to– the Pen/Malamud Award; the Eugene McDermott Award; a Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Writers Award, a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; a US-Japan Creative Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Then there are the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; the Fellow of the American Academy Rome Prize; and the Norman Mailer Prize, among others. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The short-story collection This Is How You Lose Her (2012) was a finalist for the National Book Award. A New York Times bestseller, it came out in paperback this year.
A graduate of New Jersey’s Rutgers College and the MFA program at Cornell University, Díaz is the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been active in a number of community organizations in New York City, and is an outspoken critic of the illegal deportation of Haitians and Haitian Dominicans by the Dominican government. He is a member of the board of advisers for Freedom University, a volunteer organization in Georgia that provides post-secondary instruction to undocumented immigrants. He is the honorary chairman of the DREAM Project, a non-profit education involvement program in the Dominican Republic. On January 10, he will be introduced by his friend and colleague, author and poet Pablo Medina, who read at the South End library in May 2014 from his novel, CuBop City Blues.
The South End Writes is sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library. All the events are free. Books by the speakers will be available for borrowing, sale and signing by the author. The branch is fully handicapped accessible. We serve refreshments. Seating is limited.
Also booked for the 2017/18 season are the following exciting authors:
Suspense writer and family law attorney Wendy Walker with her debut thriller that delves into the enigma of memory and the dilemmas of using memory-altering drugs to alleviate trauma ( All Is Not Forgotten) on Tuesday, February 7;
The outstanding foreign-policy journalist Stephen Kinzer (with his new book, The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and the Birth of American Empire) Tuesday, March 14;
The celebrated author of Tiger Writing: Art, Culture and the Independent Self, Gish Jen (with her latest book, due out in February, The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East West Culture Gap), Tuesday, March 28;
New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Saved Us, Jenna Blum (with her novella, The Lucky One, part of Grand Central Station, a collection of tales by well-known women writers, all taking place on the same day in Manhattan’s iconic gateway), Tuesday, April 4;
The acclaimed sociologist Sara Lawrence Lightfoot, another MacArthur Genius fellow gracing the South End library, who will be the first African American to hold an endowed chair in her name at Harvard University upon her retirement (with her recent Growing Each Other Up: When Our Children Become Our Teachers) Tuesday, April 18.
The iconic Mel King, former state legislator, school board member, community organizer, writer, poet, and the holder of perhaps the largest memory bank of South End’s turbulent history. Raised in the New York streets part of the South End by immigrant parents from Guyana and Barbados in the 1930s. Former adjunct professor in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and author of Chain of Change: Struggles for Black Community Development and collections of poetry, and founder of the South End’s Technology Center at Tent City. Tuesday, May 23;
Stephanie Schorow, journalist, journalism teacher and author of many popular books about Boston’s amazing history, including The Crime of the Century: How the Brink’s Robbers Stole Millions and the Hearts of Boston and The Cocoanut Grove Fire. Tuesday, June 13.