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Junot Diaz's most recent collection of stories, "This is How You Lose Her," comes five years after his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and fans and critics say it's worth the wait. The stories center on Yunior, a character familiar to fans who struggles to define what it means to be a man in a deeply macho culture. We talk with Diaz about his latest exploration of Dominican-American identity, his recent MacArthur "genius" grant and the renaissance of the short story.
Author Junot Diaz debunked the idea of a "racial paradise" and compared American perceptions of race with Dominican perceptions, explaining that even baseball star Sammy Sosa experienced racial discrimination while at home in the Dominican Republic. "It's important for us to understand that the world is a complicated thing but that forces like racism and sexism really are pervasive," Diaz said. "They're stronger than we give them credit for. And even in places we don't think they exist, if you scratch a little bit, if you dig underneath you begin to see their cold hard calculus."
Junot Diaz speaks at the 2009 National Book Festival: