Called “vibrant and soulful,” “screamingly funny,” and “always searching,” Diaz is known for introducing American readers to largely ignored and overlooked communities of immigrants, especially Dominicans, through his raw, vernacular-laden books. The author reveals the immigrant life, said the Foundation in its award announcement, by creating “nuanced and engaging characters struggling to succeed and often invisible in plain sight to the American mainstream.”
Diaz, himself once “invisible in plain sight,” once lived in an apartment with “almost no furniture and garbage bags for window shades…I was going nuts from my lack of success,” he told the Barnes and Noble Review, as reported by Chapter & Verse.
“It would never have dawned on me to think such a thing was possible for me,” Diaz told Fox News Latino. “I came from a community that was about as hard-working as you can get and yet no one saw or recognized in any way our contributions or our genius. I have to wonder, but for circumstances, how many other kids that I came up with are more worthy of this fellowship than me?”
He called the award “transformational" and said “It allows you to focus on your art with very little other concerns,” he said, as reported by the Guardian. “It’s kind of like a big blast of privilege.”