If you want to be a writer sometimes it helps to have an incredibly cool name. The name Junot Diaz is pretty up there in terms of coolness, I think. Yet despite these credentials the man behind the name is also a damn gifted writer. His first book was a collection of short stories called Drown and he won the Pullitzer Prize for Fiction with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. This second novel also found its beginnings as a short story which you can read on The New Yorker website http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2000/12/25/2000_12_25_098_TNY_LIBRY_000022398
But before you read his stuff I strongly and vehemently recommend that you listen to him read it. Go to this link http://www.newyorker.com/online/podcasts/fiction and scroll down to The Dating Game and listen to him read his story How to Date a Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, or Halfie).
Diaz is originally from the Dominican Republic but eventually emigrated to New Jersey. As a result Diaz has one of those wonderful Jersey accents and a lot of his writing includes slang and dialectical influences from the area, hence there is a real gift in hearing him read his own work. Personally I also think it enhances the experience and understanding on behalf of the reader in that you deepen your awareness of the context in which he is writing. Most of Diaz’s writing centres on the immigrant experience. I am currently reading The Brief Wondorous Life of Oscar Wao so expect a response to that soon.
In the meantime read some of the stuff that the New Yorker has printed and I strongly recommend keeping up with their Fiction Podcasts. You will find some real gems there, the premise being that a well known writer chooses a story from the New Yorker archive and reads it, then discusses it with the fiction editor, Deborah Treisman. Two that I found and which continue to stay with me are Lorrie Moore reading Julie Hayden’s Day Old Baby Rats and Jhumpa Lahiri reading William Trevor’s A Day. (It just dawned on me that both these stories have as their protagonists women with alcohol dependancy issues…hmmm)