Junot Diaz receives MacArthur Foundation 'genius grant'

Pulitzer Prize-winning Dominican-American author Junot Díaz is among the 23 recipients of this year's MacArthur Foundation "genius grants."

The $500,000 grants, which are paid over five years, give the winners, who work in a variety of fields including medicine, science and journalism, financial freedom to pursue creative projects.

junot-diaz-150.jpg"It left me thinking about my childhood," Díaz, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2008 for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, told the Associated Press.

"It would never have dawned on me to think such a thing was possible for me," Díaz said.

The writer moved to New Jersey at an early age, where he lived in poverty and struggled to learn English. He was an enthusiastic reader, however, and was able to complete college and later graduate with a masters in fine arts from Cornell University.

"I came from a community that was about as hard-working as you can get and yet no one saw or recognized in any way our contributions or our genius...I have to wonder, but for circumstances, how many other kids that I came up with are more worthy of this fellowship than me?"

Two other writers — Ethiopian-American novelist Dinaw Mengestu and veteran Washington Post journalist David Finkel — were also among this year's award recipients.

In 2009, Diaz chatted with Q host Jian Ghomeshi. You can watch the full interview below.

-With files from the Associated Press

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