After Latinidad: Reimagining Latino Identity in the works of Junot Díaz

Grant Glass, Harvard University

Full paper: www.kon.org/urc/v12/glass.html

Abstract This paper discusses where and how Díaz positions himself within a Latino identity, and how his narrative style incorporates his sense of Latino culture specifically in The Brief Life of Oscar Wao (2007) and Drown (1996).

Introduction Junot Díaz began his first novel, The Brief Life of Oscar Wao (2007) with an epigraph, a poem from the Saint Lucian born Derek Walcott. The poem, “The Schooner Flight” (1980) described the complicated affirmation of identity: “. . . and either I’m nobody or I’m a nation.” Díaz understood that this quote had far reaching implications beyond just the framing of the novel but in positioning his work to a larger group. The question became what group, and even further what identity was he claiming? Was it American, Hispanic, Dominican, or Latino? Only by carefully reading the literary style of Díaz in which he executes his narrative would he reveal what his association was and how that association functioned. Not only did Díaz use poetry to inform and frame his novel, he also used the same device to frame his short story collections.


A Gustavo Pérez Firmat’s poem, Bilingual Blues was provided to frame Díaz’s short story collection Drown (1996). The poem provided a greater clarity to what group Díaz might be speaking to, “how to explain to you that I don’t belong to English though I belong nowhere else.” Does this suggest that Díaz claimed to be a part of the Latino identity? Somewhere between English and Spanish or between America and the Dominican Republic? This paper discusses where and how Díaz positions himself within a Latino identity and how his narrative style incorporates his sense of Latino culture. Díaz destabilizes notions that Latino literature should be separated from the American cannon and positions Latino culture not outside of the American culture but within it.

Read the full paper: www.kon.org/urc/v12/glass.html