Wise Words from Junot Diaz

The best book I read this year, and probably ever, was Junot Diaz‘s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. (Yes, yes, I know it came out a few years ago—I go through phases of devouring books, then not reading any for months!) From page one, I was floored by Diaz’s use of language. His voice is incredibly unique and authentic, and he puts words together in rhythmic ways that I’d never heard before, let alone could conceive of doing. As a writer, I can’t even be envious of him. To me, Diaz exists on some other level, one that I—and, quite honestly, most other writers—could never even strive to achieve. (It was no surprise to me that he was just awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant.)

Diaz’s new book, This Is How You Lose Her, came out in September and it’s at the top of my reading list. Accordingly, he’s been in the press a lot, recently. But of all the things I’ve read about him, one quote has stuck in my mind. It’s from a Real Simple piece in which famous authors were asked to impart the valuable life lessons they learned from other works of literature. Diaz’s answer was:

I grew up dirt-poor in the Dominican Republic, and when my family moved to the United States (I was six), my new home felt very hostile and cold. As a kid who wanted protection, I read Watership Down, by Richard Adams. It’s about a group of rabbits who are forced from their home and encounter another warren of well-fed rabbits. The displaced animals realize that their fat kinsmen are safe because a farmer has turned their burrow into an outdoor refrigerator. At just eight years old, I realized that security is sometimes too high a price to pay for your freedom. Kindling bravery is a daily challenge: not hiding away in safety, not settling for whatever is just good enough.

Those are such wise words to remember at any time. But right now, when I’m in the middle of a time of change, they ring especially true.

What quotes have motivated or inspired you, recently? I’d love to hear!

(Photo via Jezebel)

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