Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Writers Review; Juno Diaz and Jamaica Kincaid

Juno Diaz and Jamaica Kincaid Read at 92nd Street Y
Support New Federal WPA for Writers AND READERS

by Eric Green

Two of the most exciting writers of our age presented their works and comments at the renowned location in NYC for such events: The 92nd Street Y.

Juno Diaz is a Dominican Republic born writer who immigrated to the US early in life. His two books, "Drown" [1996] and "The Brief Wondrous Lie of Oscar Wao [2007] both received many awards. He recently was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He teaches at MIT and is the fiction editor for Boston Review.

Jamaica Kincaid was born in Antigua and immigrated to the US as a teenager. She has written many books since her first in 1983. Her "The Autobiography of My Mother" [1997] won a major award. Ms Kincaid teaches at Harvard and lives in Vermont. She is a mentor to many writers.

The moderator characterized each writer by saying Kincaid is known for repetition and Diaz for cursing. Simple descriptions for neither protested it.

They both, each for 30 minutes, read selections from recent and past works.

Juno Diaz read from some recent short stories, not from his books. The high school students in the audience loved his comments. And, his words were true to his books and the moderator's description.

Ms. Kincaid read from her book about her beloved brother. [My Brother 1997] The reading focused on his shame of being a homosexual and his contracting HIV AIDs and ultimately dying. Ms. Kincaid's writings are often painfully described and sometimes hard to read; and, here she read her words. She was very well received. She almost has an elevated status among almost all US writers. She was wonderful.

In the question and answer period, most of the questions were about writing and their influences.

In a departure from literary questions, when asked if they would support a WPA writers project from the new Administration, they both said a strong "Yes." Diaz then added we just don't need writers, we need readers. He said he would "support giving $10,000 to each person who read 20 books a year." Everybody in the audience agreed with the answer to the question and Diaz's comment.

The moderator made a point to support the concept of such a federal program should be part of a stimulus package.