Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz puts the audience center stage at REDCAT

Junot Diaz puts the audience center stage at REDCAT

Moments before Junot Diaz was scheduled to appear at REDCAT, a young woman who braved the storm to wait for a ticket on standby caught sight of the author and asked if he’d sign her copy of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” After the crowd had shaken off their umbrellas and filed into their seats, Diaz took the stage and called out, “This young sister named Guadalupe. Is she actually here?” She raised her hand, beaming. “I’m glad you made it in,” he said.

Authors typically read before directly engaging the audience, but Diaz, MacArthur “genius” fellow and current Katie Jacobson writer in residence at CalArts, reversed the standard order Friday night and...

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