Before You Didn’t, Now Junot

By Allison Yeh  

Junot Diaz Hosts Best American Short Stories

junot-diaz

Image courtesy of Google Images

On Tuesday October 4th, Symphony Space held an event called Selected Shorts: The Best American Short Stories 2016. The host for the evening, Junot Diaz, a Pulitzer prize winning novelist for the book The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar War, selected a handful of his personal favorite short stories regarding the theme of “American.” While Diaz, as a writing professor at MIT, did not read any of his own stories, he noted his love as well as the need for appreciating the works of fellow writers, some of whom he referred to as Gods.  

Before presenting each performer (actors and actresses, including Renee Elise Goldsberry from Hamilton and Elizabeth Rodriguez of Orange is the New Black), Diaz gave his own sentiments on why he selected the story. When introducing Bridge by Daniel J. O’Malley, he described his experience reading it as “the kind of story you find sitting at the edge of your bathtub not wanting to move.” As a fan of Junot Diaz, I was sad he took a backseat for most of the event, but his little personal tidbits kept me satisfied.  

As the night went on each story took on a unique perspective of living in or viewing America. They tackled themes regarding immigration, language, and expectations. One story titled The Great Silence by Ted Chiang and performed by Elizabeth Rodriguez was told from the perspective of an endangered parrot, commenting on the human intelligence in comparison to extraterrestrial intelligence. Another story, Treasure State by Smith Henderson and performed by Michael Shannon, was about grave robbers living in Montana because Montana, the word, sounded beautiful to them. While the stories were very unique in their own way, it was fun to find the common American thread in each of them, showing how interpretation of America is vastly different among different people.

The event ended with Junot Diaz cracking witty remarks on how it was past the audience’s bedtime (it being 10pm and the majority of the audience being over 55). However I too, at 19, was ready for sleep after such a night full of well-told and well-written stories.

Allison Yeh is a sophomore at Barnard and Lead Features Editor for Barnard Bite.

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