A creative writing professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Díaz won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his best-selling first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
The Pulitzer Board described the work as “a dazzling, richly layered novel about an overweight, nerdy Dominican-American teenager who comes of age in a multi-generational immigrant family, devouring comic books, spinning fantasies and searching for love.”
Widely acclaimed, the book also won the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. “Funny, street-smart and keenly observed,” a New York Times review of the novel said. “An extraordinarily vibrant book that’s fueled by adrenaline-powered prose.”
Díaz was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and emigrated to New Jersey as a child. Working his way through college, he graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in English.
Díaz preceded his Pulitzer-winning work with Drown, a debut collection of 10 short stories narrated by adolescent Dominican males living in hard-pressed communities in the Dominican Republic, New York and New Jersey. “These stories,” said Publisher’s Weekly, “chronicle their outwardly cool but inwardly anguished attempts to recreate themselves in the midst of eroding family structures and their own burgeoning sexuality.”
Díaz’s fiction has also appeared in The New Yorker, African Voices, Best American Short Stories (1996, 1997, 1999, 2000), in Pushcart Prize XXII and in The O'Henry Prize Stories 2009 . He is the fiction editor at the Boston Review .
Much in demand as a speaker, Díaz has been honored frequently for his work. He has received a Eugene McDermott Award, a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, a Lila Acheson Wallace Readers Digest Award, the 2002 Pen/Malamud Award, the 2003 US-Japan Creative Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Diaz joined the Pulitzer Prize Board in 2010.