Missed Junot Díaz at Ideas in Dialogue 2016? You can watch a recording of his public talk and other great Appel Salon programming on the Appel Salon Youtube channel.
PEN Canada was honoured to host award-winning author Junot Díaz for two events in the last week of April, 2016.
On Wednesday, April 27, Díaz joined PEN Canada for a fundraising dinner at Toronto’s celebrated George Restaurant. After some lively conversation, libations and a few courses from the kitchen of chef Lorenzo Loseto, Díaz addressed the crowd with fellow guests-of-honour, author Rawi Hage (De Niro’s Game, Cockroach, Carnival) and book critic, Emily Keeler.
PEN President Randy Boyagoda introduced the evening by bringing the crowd’s attention to several special attendees: past presidents Charlie Foran, Nino Ricci and Philip Slayton, and writer-in-exile Raihan Abir who attended by the generosity of Dr. Vincent Lam. Raihan, as many PEN members will know, fled Bangladesh with his wife last fall. Shortly after their arrival in Canada, PEN welcomed the youngest and most adorable member of our community, Raihan’s daughter Sophie.
All attendees received a complimentary copy of Díaz’s This Is How Your Lose Her and Hage’s Carnival. The evening was made possible due to the generous support of sponsors Ryerson University, House of Anansi, Penguin, Inniskillin, George Restaurant and Parcel Design.
The next night Díaz was back with PEN, this time at the Toronto Reference Library for the 2016 Ideas in Dialogue discussion. Díaz was joined on stage by Sunil Yapa, author of Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, who guided the talk with thoughtful questions and shared insights of his own.
Díaz spoke to the crowd of over 500 readers and writers almost like a teacher, asking first for a show of hands – “how many immigrants are in the audience?” – before launching into an energetic, insightful discussion of writing, reading, race, diaspora, family, love, self-hatred and privilege.
Díaz described his experiences as a writer hailing from a community of non-readers, and how picking up Paule Marshall in college made him say “man, I am mad dumb.” He advised writers to avoid the “world of hurt” that comes from writing for writers, and focus instead on readers: “I was saved by artists who never imagined saving me.”
PEN Canada would like to thank the Toronto Public Library and the Appel Salon team for sharing their wonderful venue, Parcel Design for the beautiful program and poster, the Ontario Arts Council, and all of the intelligent and engaged readers and writers who shared the evening with us. Thank you!
Scroll down for audience tweets from the evening: