Celebrated writer Junot Diaz on our collective debt to society

Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz on his work beyond writing books — including public speaking, teaching and advocating for worthy causes.

Junot Diaz says that, no matter who you are in the world, you have a debt to your society.

Beyond the writing for which he is best known, the Pulitzer Prize winning author spends his time wading into delicate discussions and "defending folks who don't get a lot of defense out there".

In a wide-ranging conversation about community engagement and the role of the arts, Diaz joins guest host Gill Deacon to share how he went from a flyer-refusing student to an activist and teacher in his own right. 

"You take more out of this world than you give back," he says, adding that community work is an important to contribute to the larger society. "I realized I owe people something. And that kept me awake at night." 

Diaz's Dominican-American identity is central to his funny, profane, intelligent writing — showcased in texts like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her. His latest initiatives include a focus on supporting other writers of colour. 

"Part of our job is also that we model. That we give people alternatives for what's possible out there." 

Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz reflects on his work beyond writing books — including public speaking, teaching and advocating for worthy causes. (Ben Jamieson/CBC)


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