It's no secret that Junot Díaz is a huge comic fan. In his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the titular character is a young Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey who is obsessed with comics, science fiction, and fantasy (The title of the first chapter is "Ghetto Nerd at the End of the World"), and is a reflection of the writer's own lifelong interests. And while the novel is rife with comic book analogies, Díaz is seldom asked about his love of the medium. With that in mind, the folks at Vol. 1 Brooklyn approached Díaz about doing an interview to talk about how he got into comics, what he's reading, and what it was like growing up as a young Dominican who was into science fiction and superheroes. The celebrated author happily obliged, and the interview takes place during one of his regular trips to St. Mark's Comics in New York City, where he's been shopping for years. You can check out the full video, in which Díaz professes his love for the X-Men, Los Bros. Hernandez, Jeff Smith, and refers to Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt each as "the man," after the cut.
Díaz's words are at times poignant, familiar, and immanently relatable for many comic fans. It's a great interview throughout, but his words at the end, about comics being a "cultural touchstone" and our generation's "cultural comments," really stand out. There are also some interesting comments that didn't make it into the final version of the video, which you can check out at Vol. 1 Brooklyn's website. Among the quotes there, my favorite is Díaz's response to being asked whether he ever worries about alienating people by putting nerdy references in his books:
"I'm a Dominican writer who writes about people in Santo Domingo and New Jersey," he said. "In many people's minds, I'm already in the nichest niche of nichedom. So it doesn't make any difference if I throw in a couple of references to Galactus."
Well said. And the more Galactus references he throws in, the better.
The author's newest book, This Is How You Lose Her, is available now from Riverhead Books.
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