New Jersey Boy Junot Diaz Reflects On Sandy

Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Junot Diaz has called himself an "immigrant kid from central New Jersey." After the devastation of superstorm Sandy, he reflects on what he's seen there, and how it compares to the devastation he also witnessed following the tsunami in Japan.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

On the boardwalk in Asbury Park, New Jersey, a mural reads: The boardwalk was where all of New Jersey came together, where New Jersey, for better or worse, met itself. Those are the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Diaz. He travelled home to New Jersey this weekend to visit his family and lend a hand after the big storm and he shared these observations with us.

JUNOT DIAZ: I went to the closest city to where I grew up, Perth Amboy, New Jersey. I used to work in a steel mill there. I went down to the mill and all of the telephone poles leading up to the mill were basically resting on their wires. When I thought of, you know, storms and people's lives being sort of disrupted dramatically, it was never in a place like Perth Amboy.

I was born and spent my first six years of my life in the Dominican Republic, which is dead in the heart of hurricane country and my family immigrated to central New Jersey. I went to college with my sister and my brother to Rutgers University and we would shout across each other from the quad, telling each other what the current state of the current hurricane was.

New Jersey, for me, has always been this incredibly vibrant, diverse, dynamic, complex, productive, beautiful part of what we call our American experiment. I mean, again, I would never have become the person I am as an artist if it hadn't been for New Jersey and specifically if it hadn't been for those 127 miles of shoreline that make New Jersey so special. And that it's, in some ways, a miniature of the entire country.

For me, what was really sort of striking about this was that only a little while ago when the tsunami hit Japan, I went to the Tohoku region. Folks kept asking me, well, you know, why are you helping out? Why does a kid from the Dominican Republic who lives in New Jersey, why is he coming out to see if he can lend a hand? And I think that what I'm left with is how despite our myths of borders that we share a common fragility. We share a common human vulnerability that there is no one among us who is excluded from that mortality.

BLOCK: That's writer Junot Diaz who grew up in New Jersey. His latest book is called, "This Is How You Lose Her."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: