junot diaz islandborn picture book

Junot Díaz’s Next Foray is a Children’s Book Called ‘Islandborn’

Credit: Leo Espinosa

Widely known and critically acclaimed author Junot Díaz is finally releasing a new book, although it might not be what you were expecting.

junot diaz islandborn picture book leo espinosa
Credit: Leo Espinosa

In 20 years, Díaz has published three works, which include two short story collections, Drown and This Is How You Lose Her, and his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. While Díaz has been absent from the fiction scene for a while, he’s continued to write essays over the years and has a pretty profound social media presence on Facebook.

Díaz’s latest work, a children’s picture book titled, Islandborn, will continue to touch on themes that are present in his other works including immigration, identity, memory, and alienation, according to the New York Times.

Although Islandborn is only 48 short pages in length (which, in all honesty, is actually quite long for a picture book), it took 20 years for the author to complete the story. The concept developed out of a promise to his goddaughters, who asked him to write a story featuring characters like them, according to Díaz:

Behind their request was this longing for books and stories that resonated for them and included them, and opened a space where they could be protagonists in the world.

Featuring illustrations by Leo Espinosa (which are absolutely adorable, if the cover is any indication), Islandborn will be a much-needed addition to children’s literature, as it will touch on multiculturalism and identity, two important topics that will help to influence children in a positive manner.

“Islandborn” features a young girl named Lola who lives in Washington Heights and was born in the Dominican Republic. When she is given a school assignment to draw a picture of the place her parents came from, she can’t conjure an image of the island, which she left as a baby. So she asks family members about their memories of home. Some relatives share joyful stories, while others recall heartbreaking and frightening moments from the country’s dark past. Lola draws pictures and begins to assemble her own version of the island from the conflicting fragments of her family’s stories.

As a fellow graduate from Rutgers Unversity, I have read all of Díaz’s works (multiple times in fact, as many of my English professors, loved him), so I will definitely be picking up Islandborn when it is published. Not only will it be a chance to look at Díaz’s latest work, but it will give me a chance to introduce my young nephews to something new and completely relevant in today’s society.

Melissa Ratcliff
Reader, Writer & Translator. Cats, books and video games are my life.