In a wide-ranging interview (in Spanish) with the Mexico City literary magazine Letras Libres, Junot Díaz talks candidly about his relationship with women, and discusses his plans for “Yunior,” the alter ego who appears in two of his story collections, “Drown,” and last year’s “This Is How You Lose Her.” (The latter comes out in paperback next month, while a deluxe slipcased edition illustrated by "Love and Rockets" co-creator Jaime Hernandez will be published this fall.)
“I was raised in a family with a super strong mom,” Díaz says in Spanish. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” who was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey, says he was lucky to be surrounded by several strong women growing up.
“My sisters were the same -- fierce women. And to survive in that machista Caribbean culture you have to cultivate a very powerful feminism, which comes from very deep roots, from the same roots which machismo uses to justify dictatorships.”
When he was a young man, his mother could see the way he treated his girlfriends, Díaz said, and told women that if they dated him, he would cheat on them: “te va a pegar cuernos.” And it was a platonic woman friend who suggested he create a fictional character that was like him. She told him: “You’re always honest when you’re writing essays, but I know you, and you’re the biggest liar with women and your family. You have to write about a man who’s really honest when he writes and who is a liar in his life.”
That character became “Yunior.”
Díaz said he was in his 20s when he began writing about Yunior, “thinking that I would write four books of stories that would be part of a novel about Yunior’s life. I finished the first two, I’ve got two others to go, and if my talent lasts and I don’t die first, maybe I’ll do a fifth. I’ve got a clear idea of his life up to his 50s, when he finally finds the ability to be in an intimate relationship. That will be the moment to end with stories about his life. His life is his love story, his inability to find love.”