March 1 to March 31
The Reading Life Side Trip
"Miss Lora" by Jonot Diaz
Winner the Sunday Times 2013 Short Story Prize
Your participation is welcome, contact me if you are interested.
Yes this post on Junot Diaz born in the Dominican Republic and now an American citizen who writes mostly about immigrants from the Dominican Republic living in New York City is a vital part of Irish Short Story Week for one very big reason. It is the kind of short story the magazine editors, the publishers, teachers at MFA programs in creative writing like. If you can write like Junot Diaz you have the potential to make big money, to be a writer in resident at world class universities and command huge fees for speaking engagements. By now most short story writers and readers who follow these things online know that yesterday it was announced that his story "Miss Lora" was awarded the Sunday Times Short Story of the Award for 2012 which comes with 30,000 Pounds, the richest short story prize. The other five shortlisted writers were all English. Most writers who want to sell their work will at least probably want to read this story to see what it takes to achieve real commercial success mostly as a short story writer. Last year Ireland's own Kevin Barry won.
Junot Diaz (born 1968, Dominican Republic) won the Pulitzer
"Miss Lora" is about the relationship of a young man of Dominican background living in New York City. It is told in the first person and it is mostly about the man's relationship to a teacher, much older than him, called Miss Lora with whom he eventually forms a sexual bond. It is a story of the rough side of town, where every other word used is "f***" (OK the Irish can match this.) Women are described using street slang and appraised brutally on their bodies. The narrator stereotypes people based on where they are from. He describes his girlfriend as "Only Puerto Rican girl on the earth who wouldn’t give up the ass for any reason." Miss Lora is a school teacher and we learn the Spanish girls do not liker her but the white ones do.
There is really a lot in this story. It starts with an account of his brother, dying way to young. He won't speak to anyone and the narrator says this shows he is an "asshole", a word used a good bit in this story. The story is kind of about him roaming around trying to get laid. Miss Lora encourages him to go to college and even gets him applications. He is very smart. He sees through people and sort of reduces them down to the basics as seen in the rough barrios of New York City and New Jersey. Everybody is kind of reduced to a racial or cultural stereotype like his Puerto Rican girl friend was. It is about surviving, about family ties, about moving on, about what it means to the narrator to be a man. It is also about Miss Lora, we learn some things about her that I found fascinating. In away Diaz is kind of showing us OK all these people may seem like just caricatures until you get to know them then they are as human as you are. It is about being a parent also as we see in his long suffering mother and the Irish will see his weak and missing father as something found in much of their literature. This is also a very funny story. It is only to be seen as degrading to women and ethnic groups if we do not see it is how the man sees the world based on his life experiences. The women in the stories seem stronger than the men and to have better sense and he men are lead around by their hormones. I have not yet read the other five stories (but I think I will) but this story is what the market place now seems to want. I am glad I read it both for its own worth and so I will know what sort of story the market place wants.
You can read about the award in The Guardian
Haddon, Mark; Hall, Sarah; Diaz, Junot; Smith, Ali; Jones, Cynan; Litt, Toby (2013-02-13). Six Shorts - The finalists for the 2013 Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award . The Sunday Times. Kindle Edition. I read the story here.
I am pondering if I will read his new collection.
Please share your thoughts on the award or Junot Diaz with us.