Junot Diaz @ Books and Books, Miami
Junot laughed and the audience enjoyed his light banter with a group of University of Miami graduate students, seated in the two front rows, as he talked about the craft of writing, influences, inspiration and rewriting, "I realized I was really going to be a writer when I found out that that this book was going to take at least ten years." When he was pressed by a member of the audience about the intervening time span, he responded, "Some books come easily and some books come hard. This one was carved out of me."
The first excerpt that he read was from the "Wildwood" section of the book, written in second person, about Yola, the protagonist's twelve year old sister, and her relationship with their mother, Belicia. After giving the audience a few minutes to recover, Diaz entertained a few more questions.
Many in the audience were well-acquainted with the novel and one reader admitted to having read it through in one night. She said she came to the reading to get an explanation about the many footnotes in the book. Junot attributed the use of footnotes to the influence of Martinican author Patrick Chamoiseau, and when he faltered with the pronunciation of Chamoiseau's name, he called upon his friend, Edwidge Danticat, to help him and she obliged. He explained the use of the footnotes this way: "The idea of writing footnotes was to create a counterpoint to the coherent authoritative story. The novel frequently falls into the trap of the persuasive story without opposition. The footnotes by undermining the narrative become the opposition."
Diaz then read an excerpt from the first chapter which lays the groundwork of one of the themes of the novel--a counter-history that challenges the conceit of the authoritative text and a challenge to the "official" narratives based on Antillean insights and the mysterious Fuku: "They say it came first from Africa, carried in the screams of the enslaved; that it was the death bane of the Tainos, uttered just as one world perished and another began…Fuku americanus, or more colloquially fuku--generally a curse of doom of some kind."
The reading, which felt more like a homecoming, drew a capacity audience in the larger east wing of Books and Books, which is celebrating its twenty-fifth year as an independent book seller in Miami.
For more pictures of the event, please follow this link: Junot Diaz in Miami.