Out in the Open

What success means to award-winning author Junot Diaz

We talk to Junot Diaz about the label 'successful,' his deep discomfort with it and how his mom thinks he squandered his smarts by being a writer.
'As an individual, perhaps I look widely successful. I look at my whole family and I think, 'Damn, this is tough.''- Junot Diaz

For the discussion of the "successful" label, Out in the Open host Piya Chattopadhyay read out the following quote about Junot Diaz:

"Junot Diaz is a widely popular writer, probably one of the most influential of our generation." - Colorlines (2014)

The author admits he isn't comfortable with the label— especially, he says, when he looks around at those struggling in his family, community and in American society.

"The fact that I won this big prize that made my career in some ways, what I'm reminded more of is the arbitrariness of it," Junot told Piya.

According to Junot, his mom thinks he squandered his smarts by being a writer.

"My mom is an immigrant and practical," he explained. "She thinks I'm a crypto-communist who is one bad statement away from losing everything."

The conversation also turns to a discussion on why issues around belonging and identity, specifically around race, are coming up more often lately and how those who bring them up are often labelled "angry."