New Jersey Boy Junot Diaz Reflects On Sandy
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."
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