Reader’s Corner: Decolonize the Shelves

Junot Diaz (The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao) spoke to a packed crowd of booksellers and other literary business folk at this year’s Winter Institute in Memphis. The Dominican-born Diaz, whose latest book Islandborn will be out this March, talked about the importance of books to an immigrant like him:

… [arriving] in the United States completely illiterate, if it hadn’t been for the kindness of librarians,” he probably wouldn’t have found books. But he did. “Books became my shelter against the white world that sometimes felt like it was trying to destroy me.”

He stressed the need for book curators to help “decolonize the shelves”:

Bookstore owners and librarians are on the front line. It’s the smallest intervention that can sometimes create the most important, lasting change … I wrote my children’s book, Islandborn, because I believe there are things immigrants can teach that we all need to hear without which we will never understand this stolen land we inhabit.

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