Junot Diaz Biography

Start Your Free Trial

Download Junot Diaz Study Guide

Subscribe Now


Although born in the Dominican Republic on December 31, 1968, Junot Díaz has spent most of his life in the United States. He grew up in New Jersey and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in literature and history from Rutgers in 1992 (the same college his character Oscar attended). Famed author Toni Morrison was one of Díaz’s writing mentors. He currently teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The New Yorker has listed Díaz as one of the top twenty writers of the twenty-first century, and his stories have appeared in four different issues of the annual Best American Short Stories. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) is his first novel. His other book, Drown (1997), is an oft-praised collection of coming-of-age short stories. Over the past decade, he has won numerous awards, including the Pushcart Prize, the MIT Eugene McDermott Prize (1998), and the PEN/Malamud Award (2002) for his short fiction. He won the 2007 Sargent First Novel Prize for Oscar Wao.

Díaz lives in New York City and has dedicated this novel to his fiancée, Elizabeth de León.


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Remarkably, Junot Diaz is only the second Dominican American to have published a book of fiction in English (Julia Alvarez was the first). He is primarily a writer of poetry and prose fiction but his work is largely autobiographical.

One of five children, Diaz was born in 1969 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Knowing no English, he moved with his family to New Jersey at age seven. He began writing at about thirteen in an effort to escape the pain of his parents' failing marriage, his family's poverty, and his older brother's newly diagnosed leukemia. He later graduated from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, where his professors praised his talent for writing poetry and prose and encouraged him to pursue a literary career. Toward this end, he went on to complete a master of fine arts degree at Cornell University.

Before gaining success as a writer, Diaz held various jobs, including dishwasher, pool table deliverer, steelworker, and editorial assistant. His first published works consisted mainly of poetry, but he soon branched out into short stories and essays, publishing stories in The New Yorker, the Paris Review, and Best American Stories before the age of thirty. Drown, a collection of short stories that draws on his youth in Santo Domingo and in New Jersey, was his first book. A 1999 recipient of a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship, Diaz has won many literary awards. In 1997 he won a Pushcart Prize, and the following year he won the Eugene McDermott Award. More recently, The New Yorker named him one of the Twenty Writers for the Twenty-first Century. Diaz teaches creative writing at Syracuse University.


(Short Stories for Students)

In 1968, Junot Díaz was born into a barrio family and raised in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. In 1975, he moved with his family to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and later became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Díaz has held a variety of jobs, including copy shop assistant, dishwasher, steelworker, pool table delivery man, editorial assistant, and freelance writer. Díaz completed a bachelor of arts degree in literature and history at Rutgers University and a master of fine arts degree in creative writing at Cornell.


(The entire section is 826 words.)