Junot Díaz: down and dirty

By S.I. ROSENBAUM  |  September 21, 2012

LIKE WHAT? I was in Vejigantes, that new restaurant in the South End. This was only, what, three days ago? I was sitting down, and these women, one was Salvadorean and one was African American — and these were around-the-way girls, these were not girls who would immediately bust out, “I’m from Harvard,” these were around-the-way girls — and they were debating — between lamenting the disappearance of R. Kelly — debating this current wave of feminism and if you can even describe it as a wave.

THAT’S BEAUTIFUL. I spend all my time listening.

BOSTON’S GOOD FOR THAT. Oh yeah, Boston’s kind of awesome.

YOU THINK? For that? Of course! I mean I always joke around — you know, New York has a reputation for being loud, but Boston, I always joke with my friends, I’m like, “Boston, for the most part, outside of college campuses, has no indoor voice.” Love it.

I’M GLAD TO HEAR THAT, BECAUSE THAT LAST STORY IN THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER, WHERE BOSTON RACISTS ARE HOUNDING YUNIOR ALL OVER THE CITY, REALLY WORRIED ME. I FELT LIKE APOLOGIZING TO YOU FOR THIS TOWN, MAN. Really? Like there’s no racism in New Jersey? There’s no racism in the Dominican Republic? I guess it’s almost as if people forget I’ve spent the last three books cracking Santo Domingo and New Jersey and New York City over my literary knee. So for the first time, they’re like “Oh wait! It’s Boston! Don’t take it personally!” I’m like, “Why didn’t you take it personally when I was doing this to fucking New Jersey?”

IT’S JUST THAT I LOVE BOSTON, AND THAT’S LIKE THE CITY’S KRYPTONITE, THAT IT’S SO RACIST AND IN SUCH A UNIQUE AND CRAZY WAY. I’ll tell you what: People in Boston think of themselves as not racist, and in general it’s a very, very toxic racism that is prevalent. It’s extraordinary. It reminds me of New Jersey in 1974. Things change though, you know, and I think Boston’s holding out, but things change, and I always have hope.

LISTEN, AFTER READING THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER, I ALMOST WANTED TO CUT OUT THE MIDDLEMAN AND GET YOU TO PUT YUNIOR ON THE LINE SO I COULD INTERVIEW HIM INSTEAD. God, he would not want to. First, he’s like way smarter than me, and certainly far more deceptive . . .

I’D BE LIKE, “HEY, YUNIOR, I’M COMING FROM THIS ALTERNATE UNIVERSE WHERE THIS GUY JUNOT DIAZ IS WRITING DOWN YOUR EVERY THOUGHT.” He would say, “I’ve had that fool on a string for years!” I mean, god, I always find it to be so troubling because for 15 or 16 years the guy has just been haunting the shit out of me. I always wonder if your characters could speak, they would sort of smile proudly and say “Look at the guy I’ve got to jot down my nonsense.” You know? “I’ve got the most tormented Boswell in existence!”

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