Boris Kachka, en la revista Vulture, se encuentra con Junot Díaz en un café de Union Square para hablar del nuevo libro de cuentos que aparecerá bajo la firma de Junot, luego del éxito que fue La maravillosa vida de Oscar Wao. El libro se titulará This Is How You Lose Her. Aunque Junot ya no es el joven maravilla de la literatura pos-colonial norteamericana, con más de 40 años, una relación seria y una vida de profesor en MIT, sigue siendo el inquieto que siempre ha sido, el de las frases rotundas y los coqueteos con las chicas guapas. Y el que sabe que escribir para un hijo de dominicanos emigrados a EEUU, incluso cuando se tiene éxito, siempre será motivo para una media sonrisa. Como cuando te nace una hija, dice, y todos dicen “qué bien” pero sonriendo de lado. Solo los ves contentos cuando nace un varón”. Por ello, dice Junot, escribir novelas es como tener hijas mujeres para los dominicanos de los años 50. Pero, agrega, a él le encantan las niñas.
Díaz still keeps a place in Harlem but lives about half the time in Cambridge, teaching courses at MIT on everything from “bildungsromans of color” to media studies and postapocalyptic fiction. (He calls his facility with theory his “best-kept secret.”) Those ideas are refracted through the ids of Díaz’s lost-boy characters, as are the earth-shattering events—dictatorship, colonialism, cancer—that fill out his fiction. It’s literature masquerading as autobiography, a technique Díaz attributes to an unlikely influence, Philip Roth. “There is a game he played with readers that is wondrous, man”—those hall-of-mirror characters, sometimes called Philip Roth, who blur the line between writer and narrator. “He’s a Jersey boy—a bad boy, a very bad boy. But with an astonishing commitment to the fucking craft.”
Díaz has an even more powerful inspiration, though: the telenovela. “In a telenovela,” he says, “the chasing of a girl or a boy will allow people to put up with anything—genocide, slavery. So you can talk about an alien invasion or genocide as long as you have some girl-chasing.” The device showed up in “Monstro,” Díaz’s story in The New Yorker’s recent science-fiction issue. It’s an excerpt from what Díaz hopes is his next long novel, about a 14-year-old “Dominican York” girl who saves the planet from a full-blown apocalypse. Díaz has been trying to write a sci-fi novel for twenty years, and he believes he’s closer than ever. Having taken eleven years to write Wao, he knows that, “no matter what anyone says, the real measurement of who I am as a writer will be taken after I write my next novel.”
The stories, he understands, won’t make the same splash. When he told a friend about them, “an image sprang to mind, which was the look on my grandparents’ faces when somebody told them a daughter was born. They were … happy,” he says, offering a disappointed half-smile. “If you’d seen their faces when a son was born, you would’ve known something they were happy about. Writing short stories in a culture like ours is like giving birth to girls in a Dominican conservative family in the fifties.” But that doesn’t mean he subscribes to the hierarchy. “As an artist, I know what I have to do. I have to fucking do this book. And I loved it. I love girl children.”