ALA’s Auditorium Speaker Series ended Monday afternoon on a high note with Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Junot Díaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), who was funny, profane, and passionate in a lively hour-long conversation with Miguel A. Figueroa (director, ALA Office for Diversity). Wearing a Book It t-shirt in honor of his audience, he apologized for having to cancel last year’s scheduled ALA appearance. “I got so much hate mail from librarians,” Díaz joked, but he acknowledged the powerful role libraries played in shaping his life. “I was introduced to reading at a grammar school tour of the library, and I realized I was home.” As a child Díaz became such a voracious reader that his local librarians allowed him to photocopy pages from Books in Print so he could check off the books he read. “Once a month I still dream about that photocopied page of Books in Print,” said Díaz. “I’m standing in front of the library shelves, and I find a book I haven’t read.”
In his adult life reading continues to be the author’s greatest love. When asked what authors or books he was currently reading, Díaz cited Edwidge Danticat (“the best American writer”), Patrick Naess’s YA novel The Knife of Never Letting Go (“that book rocks”), Yoko Ogawa’s Hotel Iris (“super good”), and Julie Orringer’sThe Invisible Bridge (“one of the best books of the year, and it should have gotten a far better review than the New York Times gave it”). Among his favorite Latino and Caribbean writers, he recommended Franciso Goldman’s forthcoming fourth novel about his late wife, Aura now retitled Say Her Name (“will be the best Latino novel ever”), Columbian-born debut novelist Patricia Engel’s Vida, and two short-story collections, Oscar Casares’s Brownsville and Jennine Capo Crucet’s How to Leave Hialeah. And as fiction editor of the Boston Review, Díaz is always looking for new writers. “The problem is we have so many wonderful writers, but we’re struggling for readers.”
Visit ALA Annual Conference News for ongoing coverage of the conference by the editors of Library Journal and School Library Journal, and see LJ‘s Flickr page for pictures of various show events.