This American Moment: Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz.

hide captionJunot Diaz.

Photo by Ricardo Hernandez/AFP/Getty Images

Before the Democratic and Republican conventions in Denver and St. Paul, respectively, we had a big brainstorming session. This was the starter question: "If you could talk to anyone about what this election means — to him or her, the country, the world, and history — what person would you choose?"

We filled a big dry-erase board with names. For better or worse, the conventions lasted [only] two weeks, which left us with [only] eight spots to fill, eight interviews to do.

By continuing the series, we hope to talk to some of our dream guests, the artists, writers, politicians, philosophers, theologians and thinkers who have really busy schedules and are hard to get. Junot Diaz is one of them. Ever since he won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, he has been a busy man, traveling widely — and picking up accolades everywhere he goes.

Diaz is in town today. (A paperback version of his book has been published, and he's embarking on another book tour.) He'll join us in the Newseum, to tell us what "This American Moment" means to him. If you haven't chimed in yet, what does it mean to you?

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Go Scarlet Knights! I can relate to the personal story of Mr. Diaz. I emigrated from Poland to NJ and went on to Rutgers and now am pursuing a PhD in biology. I am grateful for the opportunities that the US afforded me, and am especially proud that I went to Rutgers. I hope that we adopt a more favorable immigration policy in the US in the near future to help others get opportunities and keep the US strong.

Sent by Joanna Malukiewicz | 3:53 PM | 9-10-2008

I'm a dual Canadian/American citizen and this election is my first experience with American politics - firsthand, that is. I started out very hopeful and excited, but seeing the issues degenerate into silly questions of "he said/she said", not to mention the attempts at manipulation by everyone involved (the idea that Hillary Clinton and Sara Palin are interchangeable is ridiculous), I have become disappointed.

Sent by Anna Pellissier | 3:53 PM | 9-10-2008

How refreshing and validating it was for me, a sixty-something woman living a marginal existence on the edge of Alaskan wilderness, to hear Mr. Diaz speaking so honestly and accurately of women's status and the conditions under which we live in this country now.

Sent by Kathy Lynn Douglass | 4:01 PM | 9-10-2008

Mr. Diaz, It's refreshing to have a person with your views and experience on this program. I think you may have shocked the host with your comments about how having a woman as a vp candidate makes little difference in the lives of women around the country and the world. I think you are a realist in a country governed by actors, pundits, and self centered opportunists. Thank you

Sent by O. Jimenez | 4:06 PM | 9-10-2008

This moment leading up to the election is more important than I can convey. We are at the most pivotal time in our country of all recent history.

If McCain and Palin get into office we are in danger of the Federal Government stepping into our private lives to plan our families, decide our religions, determine what books we read, and to ensure that we will not use renewable energies. I truely believe this would just be the beginning.

It is offensive for John McCain to assume that just because he put a women on his ticket that women are going to rush to vote for her. Frankly Sarah Palin terrifies me.

Her doomsday, fatilist outlook is very dangerous when that person is in any position to shape our National policy, negoiate with other Nations, and to represent a free nation. These are the things that 3rd World dictorships are made of.

Sent by Roberta Garrett | 4:30 PM | 9-10-2008

I too am deeply insulted in the McCain campaign's belief that all it takes to win my vote is a woman on the ticket. I was (naively) shocked to hear women interviewed at the Republican convention, just days after the announcement of McCain's choice of Palin as his running mate, touting what a wonderful person she was for the job. When asked "Why?", the responses varied from "Because she is a woman" to "She's a Mom!". Women, WAKE UP! Let's educate ourselves on an individual's qualifications for the role instead of blindly following a female without knowledge of her abilities to fulfill the role of Vice President of the free world. I am a woman, as well as a Mom, and I value these roles deeply. This does not qualify me to be Vice President on any ticket.

Sent by Jennifer Daye-Cannon | 11:28 PM | 9-10-2008

I think that Andrew Bacevich (Interview on Democracy NOW!, Aug. 20, 2008) summarized my sentiments EXACTLY when he said:
"I think the key question is, will the American empire end catastrophically because of our blind insistence that we will not change? Or will we be able to disengage ourselves from and dismantle the American empire in a sensible, reasonable way that will do the least damage to the world and the least damage to ourselves?"

Sent by Katharine Seipel | 4:57 AM | 9-11-2008

Neal,

Junot Diaz's cynical misstatement of facts may accurately reflect his misperception of reality but ...

* Rather than being "COMPLETELY bottomed out", the nation's economy is certainly better now than during the Carter years and far better than during the Great Depression.

* Rather than being "utterly gutted", educational spending is well above the historic average and teachers are as well educated and as experienced as ever.

* While any loss of American lives is regrettable, more Americans were killed in Manhattan in September 2001 than have been killed in both wars so far this year.

* Domestic violence has not been increasing over the past decade, but declining since 1993.

He's certainly entitled to his fantasies, but I'm surprised you didn't at least gently probe whether he was just putting you (and your audience) on.

Sent by Tom Smith | 10:11 AM | 9-11-2008

Wow! I've never heard Mr. Diaz before. What a honest and practical voice in the midst of folly and nonsense.

Sent by JKB | 10:44 AM | 9-11-2008

I was able to meet and hear Junot Diaz at a writers conference in North Dakota earlier this year. His intelligence is matched only by his ability to articulate and speak the truth. What a great voice to hear on the show and what an honest and unspun analysis of the state of our nation.

If more people would honestly appraise what has happened to our country and what could happen if the majority makes certain choices, we might have a chance to move into the coming years with strength and compassion both for ourselves as Americans and others around the world.

Sent by Leslie Erickson | 3:44 PM | 9-11-2008

* Juniot Diaz is a young writer who was born in the Dominican Republic.
*He is very intelligent. He can motivate people by his novels.
*He won the Pulitzer Prize for the "Brief Wndrous Life of oscar wao"

Sent by Lisa | 12:47 AM | 9-15-2008

I know and respect many immigrants. My best friend and his family defected from Poland to America via Austria during the cold war. I feel that people who are immigrants are the embodiment of the American ideal as people who take risks to make a better life for themselves and their children. The issue I have with the latest uncontrolled wave of Mexican and South American immigrants has two parts. First, if America lets everyone with the willingness to take chances and work hard into this country, who will be left in Mexico and beyond to build a better future? Second, as I recall my American history, Texas became a part of this county through a large inflow of American immigrants into Mexico that suddenly decided the wanted to be a part of the U.S. Do we really think that things are different now? I can easily foresee a time when, after this massive influx of peoples from our neighbors to the south reaches a tipping point, the shoe could be on the other foot. At that point it doesn't matter if secession from the union is legal, all that matters is the amount of blood that would be spilled to settle the question. The sad fact is that if the economic conditions were better in Mexico there would be no issue to discuss. This would have been possible if we had waited a few decades after the NAFTA agreement was passed in 1993 before agreeing to free trade with China in 1999. But the business world only whet its appetite for cheap labor in Mexico; it found the wellspring in China.

Sent by Travis B. Thompson | 3:26 PM | 9-25-2008

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