8 Latin American Authors Who Have Influenced Junot Díaz

Lead Photo: Photo by Arthur Pollock
Photo by Arthur Pollock
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Only a book nerd could have dreamt up Oscar Wao‘s life. Junot Díaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao made its debut in 2007, and within the pages, Díaz drops enough Lord of the Rings references to show just how deep his Tolkien knowledge goes. But even though sci-fi is a big focus for the novel, he certainly inspired a new generation of writers with this book – just as other authors have inspired him.

In 2012, Junot talked to The New York Times and explained that he started reading at age 7 and went directly to chapter books with Encyclopedia Brown. But he also talked about authors who, like him, write about the Dominican experience, as well as other parts of Latin America.

Check out eight authors (No. 5 contains multiple authors) who have inspired Junot:


A great piece of fiction:

“In fiction, the ‘last truly great book’ I read has to be Alejandro Zambra’s Bonsai. A subtle, eerie, ultimately wrenching account of failed young love in Chile among the kind of smartypant set who pillow-talk about the importance of Proust,” Diaz told NYT. “You get the cold flesh of the story in that chilling first line: ‘In the end she dies and he remains alone, although in truth he was alone some years before her death.’ But only by reading to the end do you touch the story’s haunted soul. A total knockout.”


A book that made him cry:

“That’s easy: the winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize, Eduardo Corral’s collection, Slow Lightning. When I finished that book I bawled. Wise and immense, but peep for yourself: ‘Once a man offered me his heart and I said no. Not because I didn’t love him. Not because he was a beast or white — I couldn’t love him. Do you understand? In bed while we slept, our bodies inches apart, the dark between our flesh a wick. It was burning down. And he couldn’t feel it,'” he said to the NYT.


A book he's re-read:

“I’m re-reading Natalie Diaz’s When My Brother Was an Aztec [2012] – that book’s a killer. That is not to be missed,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2015.


A book that made him furious:

The Femicide Machine, by Sergio González Rodríguez. The notorious femicides in Juárez were not unknown to me, but González Rodríguez’s grisly post-mortem of the cultural, political and economic forces behind these atrocities would infuriate anyone,” Diaz told the NYT about this book.


Books to understand the Dominican and Dominican-American experience:

“That’s a tough one. We need a lot more books in English about the Dominican experience. Fortunately the field is growing, and there’s some good stuff out there,” he said. “I recommend one start with one of the country’s greatest poets, Pedro Mir, his Countersong to Walt Whitman and Other Poems. Pure genius. Then read Ginetta Candelario’s Black Behind the Ears for a superbly guided journey through the complexities of Dominican racial identity. Also Frank Moya Pons’s The Dominican Republic: A National History is excellent, and so is Julia Alvarez’s novel In the Time of the Butterflies.”