The Hispanic Heritage Foundation has announced it will honor MIT professor and Pulitzer Prize- winning author Junot Díaz with a Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature.
He will receive the award in a ceremony in Washington, DC, on September 22nd, and will share the stage with this year’s other winners, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is to receive the Foundation’s Leadership Award. The event will be broadcast nationally on PBS on Friday, September 30 at 10:00pm ET.
“I am deeply honored to receive this award, to be included in extraordinary company of Justice Sonia Sotomayor and my other fellow honorees,” said Díaz. “As an immigrant myself, I hope that the award can bring attention to our heroic immigrant communities, who give so much for our country, and in particular to our undocumented students, who are this country’s true leaders.”
Díaz lived his early years in the Dominican Republic, moving to New Jersey at age 7. That immigrant experience, in particular as part of the Dominican diaspora, became a core theme of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the novel for which Díaz the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Responding to news of the award, Professor Edward Schiappa, head of Díaz’s home at MIT, Comparative Media Studies and Writing, said that “in the time Junot has been on our faculty, he has now received an Hispanic Heritage Award, a Pulitzer, and numerous other accolades. But we are also proud to tout his work as an educator, receiving extraordinary praise each semester from the young writers in our program for his teaching on worldbuilding, genre fiction, and even apocalyptic storytelling.” Díaz has long taught a “Critical Worldbuilding” class, in which students not only learn to create imagined worlds but to do so in ways that can be adapted for other narrative media, such as television, film, comics, and literary texts.
The Hispanic Heritage Awards were established in 1987 by The White House to commemorate the creation of Hispanic Heritage Month in America. Other past winners include singer Plácido Domingo, musician Tito Puente, actress America Ferrera, former United States Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez, and writer Isabel Allende.