Monday, April 24, 2017

3. JUNOT DIAZ (AND A GUY NAMED NEIL)

 NOTE: Students are to pick TWO of the final four posts - 1. Anthropomorphic Animals, 2. The Adult's Inner Child. 3. Junot Diaz (and a guy named Neil), and 4. David Almond or Dodie Smith. Comments should be posted no later than Weds. May 3. If you were habitually late with blog posts (i.e. need a little extra credit), I strongly suggest doing all four.

 Students MUST post reactions ( minimum 250 words) to the combined reading and viewing linked or noted below. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

Geeking Out with Junot Diaz: "In addition to being a Pulitzer-winning, chart-topping novelist and short story writer, Junot Díaz is more than a little nerdy. Okay, very nerdy. His work is filled with references to geek-culture touchstones that blend seamlessly with historical analysis." Click heading to watch video.

NO FACE by Junot Diaz: "In the morning he pulls on his mask and grinds his fist into his palm. He goes to the guanábana tree and does his pull-ups, nearly fifty now, and then he picks up the café dehuller and holds it to his chest for a forty count. His arms, chest and neck bulge and the skin around his temple draws tight, about to split. But no! He’s unbeatable and drops the dehuller with a fat Yes. He knows that he should go but the morning fog covers everything and he listens to the roosters for a while. Then he hears his family stirring. Hurry up, he says to himself. He runs past his tío’s land and with a glance he knows how many beans of café his tío has growing red, black and green on his conucos. He runs past the water hose and the pasture, and then he says FLIGHT and jumps up and his shadow knifes over the tops of the trees and he can see his family’s fence and his mother washing his little brother, scrubbing his face and his feet." Click heading (and scroll down) to read the story.

FULL CIRCLE: Watch Junot Diaz in conversation w. Neil Gaiman. Click heading (video is at the bottom of rounded up highlights)

11 comments:

Marina Martinez said...

Upon watching “Geeking Out with Junot Díaz,” I felt I related to Díaz. He talked about Latino/Latina representation and I found it struck a chord with me. As a Latina woman who often only sees Latinas sexualized in the media or working as the typical house cleaners or drug dealers in films it was refreshing to see James Hernandez’s work. I liked how Díaz looks at a lot of books and comics that are unique and different from those that are more mainstream. I also liked how he related to the characters that were different or outcasts. I really enjoyed the excerpt of “No Face” by Junot Díaz. I liked the vivid descriptions provided by Díaz. I also like how mysterious the story is. The reader isn’t really aware at what is happening or why No Face must go up North or why he is No Face and it keeps the reader hooked. I also like the enthusiasm that No Face moves with that comes across in the story. I also liked the little details in the story, like how no one listened to the owner of the beauty shop “since her husband left her for a Haitian”. I also like how No Face announces his powers before he uses them. I also began to question if he actually has any powers since he clearly has a face under his mask. I found the story as a whole very interesting and felt like I had to reread it to understand what was going on. In his interview with Neil Gaiman, I like how they touched on the topic of diversity and thought Sandman sounded intriguing.

Syeda Khaula Saad said...

I love Junot Diaz’s writing. It was really cool to see him in a comic book store “geeking out,” because along with getting to see what he likes to do in his spare time and how he grew up, the issues he was talking about are things that have been mentioned in other blog posts: audience, diversity, etc. But reading the work that came out of it is even better. I appreciate “No Face” for a plethora of reasons. First, I enjoy that he does not use quotation marks. One may think that this would cause someone to get lost in conversation, but the way Diaz sets it up is almost perfect. Even if you get lost with who is saying what, it is more important to focus on the actual words being spoken.
When I was younger, one of my favorite books was “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros, and Diaz’s writing is remarkably similar to it, in his own way. Also, my absolute favorite part about Diaz’s works is how (we have mentioned this before but) he does not italicize Spanish words. This creates a sort of recognition and connection between the reader and the story even if they do not speak Spanish. But, at the same time, it also creates a division with these same people. They do not know the language so they are left out, but in a beautiful way. It is Diaz’s way of saying that No, in this story, it is no the Spanish that is weird. Instead, Diaz actually italicizes some English sentences. This shows that it is not his own language that is the one that needs extra attention paid to it.

jaclyn liccone said...

The description in Juan Diaz's writing in "No Face" may be the best I've seen in anything I've read before. Every sentence, I was able to paint a picture of exactly what the characters were going through making me feel like I was one of them. I chose to read his writing first and then watch his "Geeking Out" video. Once I saw the video, his way of writing made way more sense to me. Being able to see what an author is like outside writing and what they do in their free time can tell the reader a lot about their writing and why it is created how it is. That being said, I also believe that a good writer never actually stops writing. The writers mind is constantly moving and thinking of new ideas with every experience they have in life whether it's something simple like being in a store or something more complex like visiting a new country. A writer is always brainstorming new ideas that could be used in their writing and the more experiences a they have, the more description they will be able to add overall.

Another reason I enjoyed Diaz's writing is because it was written within the Spanish culture which is something I know nothing about. I like to learn new things about other cultures and compare them to my own. This made me all the more interested in his writing descriptions and the messages he was trying to convey overall because it wasn't relatable for me, but something new I learned and could compare to my own culture.

Samantha G said...

Wahoo! Love Junot Diaz! Go Rutgers! Go Comics!

Although I was never interested in reading comic books, now that I am in college, I totally appreciate them. I think it engages certain types of readers, which is totally awesome. I look forward to seeing the way comics change culturally. I love Persepolis, March, and When the Rules Aren't Right, but I want more representation in comic books. Maybe Junot Diaz should write one...

I loved the excerpt of No Face-- in fact, it's probably my favorite thing we've read all semester. I love how Diaz names the world in a really pinpointed and important way (Chiclets, Kalima, Ocoa, Guanabana tree). I would love to read this with a class and read a comic, beside this piece.

I also gained so much more respect from Neil Gaiman after watching his video with Diaz. I love that he wrote characters that weren't just "men with watermellons on their chest". He wrote real people that don't all look the same!! That's what I'm talking about!! Dude, add your trans and gay friends to comics-- not cause they're gay or trans, but cause they're people! Kudos, man.

Becky Clark said...

Before the blog post, I never heard of Junot Diaz. At first, it was hard for me to relate with the video and the interview with Gaiman because I do not like comic books and am not a fan of graphic novels. However, I do appreciate that comics are being geared more towards everyone rather than a specific demographic. One of my favorite lines was when Gaiman says “I didn’t want to write to women who were just men with watermelons strapped to their chest.” I also like how Gaiman and Diaz are writing about minority characters. I enjoy reading about characters who are different than I am and learning about other cultures.

There were so many things I loved about No Face. The first is how Diaz created this world where it’s filled with his culture. There are a lot of Spanish words blended in but they seem so natural, just like what Esme talked about in the writer’s house. It makes his character feel more real. I also loved the details and the scene he painted. My two favorite moments were when he picked up the change from the drunks and when he bought the comic book. Both of these gave more detail into the character’s life that he is probably poor and he wishes he could have a face. “If his face were covered he’d be perfect” is one the best lines because it gives the boy’s need to fit in and belong without outright saying it. I found this piece extremely moving and emotional but it was not overdramatic. I didn’t pity the main character but wanted to see him succeed. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Diaz and plan on reading more of his works.

Aishik Mukherjee said...

I've been struggling to write any response to this for far too long. I have absolutely no idea what to focus on. Junot Diaz’s “NO FACE” focuses on a typical day for a boy with no face. His face having been eaten off by a pig has left him horrifically scarred. No Face seems to be stuck at young-adolescence and coping with what has happened to him. Though he cannot remember the incident himself, for being too young at the time and possibly for having blocked it out, he is told it over and over until it saturates his nightmares. He calls for his powers of STRENGTH, INVISIBILITY, and FLIGHT at various times throughout the story. This belief in his supernatural status seems a way to cope with the injustice of the world. HE even tells someone that he has been fighting evil. No face seems to need to be some form of a vigilante charged with protecting himself from the cruelty of his life. He also tells himself to be a man when he is filled with fear and unrest. Only this seems to calm him back to sleep. He has filled his identity with that of someone who can save him, someone he needed when that pig attacked him. This has halted his formative years to cut and paste a stereotypical comic book savior into where he would need to build and find his own identity. The threat of the fat boy to make him a girl, presumably by mutilating his genitals, also complicates who No Face is. Though he says strength and exhales the fat boy off of him, I’m not convinced he does so out of simple fear of pain. The threat of losing his masculinity may be the real driver here as superheroes are strong powerful and most often male. If he is no longer a man, he is no longer a hero and he needs to be this hero. All in all, I’m sure the complexities of this story will unfold in a month and a half when I’ve allowed my subconscious a crack at it.

Dan O'Connor said...

I have never before really read any work by Junot Diaz. The part of No Face that we read was really rather interesting. The way he describes that world, though mundane in some way, never feels so easy as just saying the boy went here or there. Instead there is such an energy about the way events occur. It felt kind of hectic at times, but never in a bad way. Also the superhero element that he applies to the story was great. I thought that it was used in an interesting way, to keep the boy apart from everything else, to kind of single him out.
The conversation between Diaz and Gaiman was also very interesting. They seem like a goof pair of writers to have on a stage together. The importance of diversity and displaying that in a worthwhile manner, not simply as token characters, is important. I think that in this time there is more than just a recognition that diversity is wanted in all different forms of media, and that desire is being listened to.

Richard Urquiza said...

Junot Diaz is an incredibly inspiring new author for me. I first discovered him last semester during my “Why We Tell Stories” class. I knew that he had some knowledge and interest in the comic book world, as evident by references used in “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”, but I didn’t know how deeply immersed in the nerd culture he was until now, and it is inspiring to know that he is. While I never got into comic books much myself, I was very much into video games. Many of my friends were too. It wasn’t until I entered a public middle school that I began to feel different from others; alien, like the X-men and Junot Diaz himself. As writers, it is important to feel as though you stand out. Early in life that might seem like a curse, but as you develop you learn to use it in your favor.

Junot Diaz’s style of writing reminds me greatly of Ernest Hemingway, in a paradoxical sort of way. Both have a very blunt and to-the-point voice in their narration. They both do not disguise the truth in the story, however unpleasant it may be. It is ironic though as Hemingway and Diaz have somewhat polar personalities. Diaz is quite the nerd after all, and felt alienation early in life. Hemingway on the other hand, as is well-known, was a macho man. An eccentric style of being, and not giving half a damn of what anyone thought of him. Regardless, both suffered great turmoil in life, and both use it in their writing.

Sara Hankins said...

I had read Diaz's interview with Neil Gaiman and watched the video of him geeking out in a comic book store before I read No Face. Possibly because of the order in which I was introduced to Diaz, I guess I expected the sample of his writing to be more like a comic book or to have allusions to pop culture or some kind of nerdy stuff. Though I appreciate where the writing sample took me instead, to something unfamiliar to me by leaving out the geek references and let me see the Dominican Republic from the perspective of a child. From the first sentence, I knew I was in another country. Not only did he use terms such as guanabana tree and cafe dehuller, but the entire action of the story. The setting of the stores on the dirt road, scavenging for change, a child drinking coffee, its very foreign to someone who grew up in the United States. Even though there was not much in the story I could easily relate to, that made the story all the more magical to me.

Elaina Yu said...

I found the video following Junot Diaz while he geeked out about his comic books the most fascinating because it found it so relatable. In middle school and halfway thru high school, I read a lot of manga books, and then the other half of high school I got into K-pop. Between those two, I felt like I really related to Diaz in the way that these pieces became part of me and my world-view and thus became a part of my stories and writing.
Manga books in particular were very influential to me. Two series specifically really shaped me as a person and as a writer. Fruits Basket was my first series, but as it became darker and more twisted over the 23 volumes over its eight year run, it really opened my naïve mind to the pitfalls and desires of human nature. Then there was Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden. This series in particular, shaped me as a writer and as a person. It ran from 2003 to 2013 though I didn’t get my hands on the last one until 2015. I grew up with this series. But it mostly touched me because it was a much more mature version of any other manga I had ever read. It dealt with the issues of abandonment, helplessness, and very strongly – death. But it also told of loyalty, triumph, and love.
So I don’t think having “weird” or “geeky” interests should ever be an embarrassment, though I am still struggling with being strong when people react to me writing K-pop fanfiction. It colors a writer’s story and worldview in a way that no other combination could.

ALEX LYU said...

After viewing "Geeking Out with Junot Diaz" I felt a connection the author and felt a genuineness that is probably what makes his work so amazing. He spoke on Latino representation and I remember reading a few excerpts from some of his other works that drove home his goal of normalization. I remember he often didn't translate his sentences because he felt that contextually and impactfully, it was more effective to leave it. Seeing James Hernandez's work provide a more human take on Latina women was a breath of fresh air, as they are often only portrayed as sexual object in the media or movies. It seems that when we find something we idealize in some stereotyped group, we use that as some sort of surrogate reason for respect. Diaz also proves his legitimacy in terms of being a geek by showcasing comics that are outside the mainstream. You can tell that he's refined his tastes past what the market hands him on a platter. The excerpt of "No Face" was also very engaging, and as usual, his descriptions were extremely vivid even in the surreal. The mystery of No Face—his identity, his motives, his origin—are obscured, but the conceit keeps the reader wanting for more. At the same time, despite his shrouded identity, we can really relate to No Face due to his very human enthusiasm and conviction and emotions. The sense of an established community is also very strong, with the scenes in the beauty shop and the racist overtones. His interview with that guy named Neil was also interesting and I've been meaning to read the Sandman for a long time, but haven't gotten around to it. I think I'll start this summer.