7 Short Stories by Junot Díaz Free Online, In Text and Audio

As much as any con­tem­po­rary writer of lit­er­ary fic­tion ever does, Junot Díaz has become some­thing of a house­hold name in the years since his debut nov­el, The Brief Won­drous Life of Oscar Wao appeared in 2007, then went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, among oth­er many oth­er hon­ors. The nov­el has recent­ly topped crit­ics lists of the best 21st cen­tu­ry nov­els (so far), and the recog­ni­tion is well-deserved, and very hard-won. Díaz spent a decade writ­ing the book, his process, in the words of The New York Times’ Sam Ander­son, “noto­ri­ous­ly slow” and labo­ri­ous. But none of his time work­ing on Oscar Wao, it seems, was spent idle. Dur­ing the long ges­ta­tion peri­od between his first book of sto­ries, 1996’s Drown, his first nov­el, and the many acco­lades to fol­low, Diaz has reli­ably turned out short sto­ries for the likes of The New York­er, cul­mi­nat­ing in his most recent col­lec­tion from 2012, This Is How You Lose Her.

Díaz is his own worst critic—even he admits as much, call­ing his over­bear­ing crit­i­cal self “a char­ac­ter defect” and “way too harsh.” Per­haps one of the rea­sons he finds his process “mis­er­able” is that his “nar­ra­tive space,” as crit­ic Liz­a­beth Par­avisi­ni-Gebert writes, con­sists not of “nos­tal­gic recre­ations of ide­al­ized child­hood land­scapes,” but rather the “bleak, bar­ren, and decayed mar­gins of New Jersey’s inner cities,” as well as the trag­ic, bloody past of his native Domini­can Repub­lic.

Despite the his­tor­i­cal vio­lence from which his char­ac­ters emerge, the voic­es of Diaz’s nar­ra­tives are a vital force, full of light­en­ing-fast recall of pop cul­tur­al touch­stones, hip-hop, his­toric and folk­loric allu­sions, and the minu­ti­ae of high geek­ery, from sci-fi film, to gam­ing, to com­ic book lore. (Watch Diaz dis­cuss geek cul­ture at New York’s St. Mark’s Comics above.)

Like a nerdy New World Joyce, Díaz works in a dizzy­ing swirl of ref­er­ences that crit­ic and play­wright Gregg Bar­rios calls a “deft mash-up of Domini­can his­to­ry, comics, sci-fi, mag­ic real­ism and foot­notes.” The writer’s unique idiom—swinging with ease from the most street­wise and pro­fane ver­nac­u­lar to the most for­mal aca­d­e­m­ic prose and back again—interrogates cat­e­gories of gen­der and nation­al iden­ti­ty at every turn, ask­ing, writes Bar­rios, “Who is Amer­i­can? What is the Amer­i­can expe­ri­ence?” Diaz’s nar­ra­tive voice—described by Leah Hager Cohen as one of “rad­i­cal inclusion”—provides its own answers.

That noto­ri­ous­ly slow process pays div­i­dends when it comes to ful­ly-real­ized char­ac­ters who seem to live and breathe in a space out­side the page, a con­se­quence of Díaz “sit­ting with my char­ac­ters” for a long time, he tells Cres­si­da Leyshon, “before I can write a sin­gle word, good or bad, about them. I seem to have to make my char­ac­ters fam­i­ly before I can access their hearts in any way that mat­ters.” You can read the results of all that sit­ting and ago­niz­ing below, in sev­en sto­ries that are avail­able free online, in text and audio. Sto­ries with an aster­isk next to them appear in This Is How You Lose Her. The final sto­ry comes from Diaz’s first col­lec­tion, Drown.

  • “The Cheater’s Guide to Love” * (The New York­er, July 2012—text, audio)
  • “Mon­stro” (The New York­er, June 2012—text)
  • “Miss Lora” * (The New York­er, April 2012—text)
  • “The Pura Prin­ci­ple” * (The New York­er, March 2010—text)
  • “Alma” * (The New York­er, Decem­ber 2007—text, audio)
  • “Wild­wood” (The New York­er, June 2007—text)
  • “How to date a brown girl (black girl, white girl, or hal­fie)” (text, audio)

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

A Sneak Peek at Junot Díaz’s Syl­labi for His MIT Writ­ing Class­es, and the Nov­els on His Read­ing List

Junot Díaz Anno­tates a Selec­tion of The Brief Won­drous Life of Oscar Wao for “Poet­ry Genius”

10 Free Sto­ries by George Saun­ders, Author of Tenth of Decem­ber, “The Best Book You’ll Read This Year”

Read 18 Short Sto­ries From Nobel Prize-Win­ning Writer Alice Munro Free Online

800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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