From the Discover Archives: Junot Díaz

Dear Reader,


In 1996, a story collection called Drown by a then-unknown Junot Díaz was selected for Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers program. We weren't the only ones who were wild for this incandescent debut: Across the country, booksellers and readers raved about this story collection overflowing with laughter and rage and language -- it was the language that did us all in, the prose that made us all pay attention.


And then we waited. And listened to the rumors about a manuscript he was polishing. Or still writing. Or not. And we waited some more. We were rewarded in 2007 with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao -- and Díaz with the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.


His third book, This is How You Lose Her, was released last week, and here's just some of what the reviewers are saying:


 "Scooch over, Nathan Zuckerman. New Jersey has bred a new literary bad boy -- and his name is Yunior. A Dominican immigrant with a fondness for women and weed and wordplay (in roughly that order), Yunior is the mostly decent, commitment-shy alter ego of novelist Junot Díaz -- who grew up about a half hour south of Newark, the boyhood home of Zuckerman creator Philip Roth." -- Entertainment Weekly gives This is How You Lose Her an A


Glowing reviews from Discover alums Ron Hansen (Mariette in Ecstasy, 1991) and Héctor Tobar (The Barbarian Nurseries, 2011): 


From Hansen in The Washington Post: "Drown, his 1996 collection of stories, was widely praised for its verve and searing honesty. Readers of that and his "Star Trek grenade" of a novel will find much to love in This Is How You Lose Her. Written in a singular idiom of Spanglish, hip-hop poetry and professorial erudition, it is comic in its mopiness, charming in its madness and irresistible in its heartfelt yearning." 


Tobar in The Los Angeles Times: "It's not just Díaz's eye for the idiosyncrasies of his characters that make these stories so funny and moving: It's also his fierce wordplay and inventiveness. He's a writer who's at once disciplined and free-spirited, as comfortable in his Latin skin as he is in his English prose."


The Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Díaz is one of our finest prose stylists, his sentences seamless, melodic, delightfully allusive. He works them as precious metals or musical phrases are worked: to make those rings and rhythms seem as if they've always existed."



Miwa Messer

Miwa Messer is the Director of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program, which was established in 1990 to highlight works of exceptional literary quality that might otherwise be overlooked in a crowded book marketplace. Titles chosen for the program are handpicked by a select group of our booksellers four times a year. Click here for submission guidelines.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."