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After 20 Years Junot Díaz Kept His Promise To His Goddaughters And Wrote A Picture Book

Junot Díaz/ Facebook/ Leo Espinosa/ Penguin Random House

Dominican-American novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz (“This Is How You Lose Her,” “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” “Drown”), just announced that his new project is a children’s book. The 48-page book was illustrated by award winning Colombian artist Leo Espinosa. Twenty years ago, Díaz promised his goddaughters he’d write them a story, and he finally got around to keeping his promise.

“Islandborn” is Díaz’s first picture book and is the result of a promise he made to his goddaughter’s about 20 years ago.

According to the New York Times article Díaz shared on Facebook, the project started two decades ago as a pitch from his goddaughters, who asked him to write a story with characters like them: “Dominican girls living in the Bronx.” The book, released through Dial Books for Young Readers, is an attempt to bring more visibility to literature for people of color. As a young voracious reader, Díaz didn’t see himself represented in literature, saying, “It was an absence I felt acutely,” to The Times.

Two decades after his initial promise, it was another young girl who helped nudge him to keep his word. The daughter of a friend asked him to tell her a story and he obliged, coming up with one on the spot. After being recorded while reciting the story, and after lots of convincing from colleagues and his agent, Díaz eventually sat down to write the story that became “Islandborn.”

The book follows Lola, a young Dominican girl from Washington Heights who is asked by a teacher to draw her family’s homeland. When she can’t, having left DR as a baby, she asks her family for help. The story contains themes that Díaz incorporates into his vivid stories normally aimed at adults, including immigration, identity, and displacement.

The official description of the book on the Penguin Random House page reads:

So when Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island.  As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”

The book releases on March 13, 2018, until then, you can brush up on Díaz’s other work — probably best not to read those to children, though.

READ: Try Not To Cry While Listening To This Junot Diaz Poem About Latino Greatness

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The Streets Of Caracas And Other Major Cities In Venezuela Are Empty Because Of A Nationwide Strike

things that matter

The Streets Of Caracas And Other Major Cities In Venezuela Are Empty Because Of A Nationwide Strike

@meridaaldia / @eltubazo / Instagram

Venezuela is not moving today due to a nationwide strike against President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to rewrite the country’s constitution. On Sunday, July 16, millions of Venezuelans voted on a nonbinding, symbolic measure denouncing the creation of the National Constituent Assembly. The assembly would be created by the Maduro government and be tasked with rewriting the constitution. The last time this assembly was created was in 1999, when Hugo Chavez became president of Venezuela. Chavez  rewrote the constitution and took power away from his political opponents.

Here’s what Venezuela looks and sounds like today during the strike.

Major cities around Venezuela are silent and still today as Venezuelans participate in a an anti-Maduro strike.

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Pleno centro de Maracaibo, donde el tráfico y el comercio se hacen sentir más que en cualquier lugar del mundo, un sitio donde la gente camina por montones. Es increíble cómo la gente cada día va abriendo los ojos y se suma a las iniciativas que convoca el propio pueblo, un pueblo que hoy no necesita de politiquería y "Líderes" que solo velan por sus intereses, la gente habló, se hizo sentir y seguirá organizada hasta que el gobierno incompetente y asesino de mi país abandone su cargo. Maracaibo hoy se paró, se manifestó y el resto del país también lo hizo. ¡El que tenga ojos que vea! #maracaibo #paronacional #quenadiesalga #sumate #venezuela #libertad #fueradictadura #abajocadenas 🇻🇪

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Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has argued that the assembly is an attempt to bring peace to the South American country, which has been devastated by months of sustained protest and clashes between protesters and law enforcement.

From the freeways of Caracas, Venezuela…

These are the same freeways we have seen packed with protesters since April.

To the surface streets of Merida, some areas of Venezuela are looking like ghost towns.

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Centro de la ciudad de #Mérida #ParoNacional

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Maduro has spoken about the strike and has said that it is failing. He say all the strike is seeking to do is negatively impact Venezuela’s economy, according to ABC News.

One state-run media company is sharing photos and videos of some Venezuelans going to work in support of Maduro.

“Workers of @SarenEnLinea working for a productive and independent Venezuela,” reads the tweet by @VTVcanal8.

However, photos coming from other Venezuelans are painting a different picture, like this photo of Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas…

CREDIT: Courtesy of Miguelangel Hernandez

The Organization of American States Secretary-General Luis Almagro has released a third report about the violence and protests taking place in Venezuela. In the report, Almargo expresses concern over the escalation that could take place if the Maduro government does not change course and listen to the citizens demanding change.

“The fear that is on everyone’s mind, but we are too afraid to speak out loud, is our fear that this will escalate into a bloodbath,” Almargo wrote in his report. “The one thing that is clear is that this regime has no regard for the human rights of its people, or the lives of its citizens. They have already made the decision that 75 lives is a price they are willing to pay to hold onto power. How many more can we, the international community tolerate?”

Or this photo comparing train usage from yesterday to today in Caracas.

Venezuelans set up makeshift road blocks in the early morning hours to disrupt as much as possible during the strike.

“We put up the barricade early, around 5 a.m.The objective is that no one goes to work, that people stay home for 24 hours,” Edmond Fakrhi, a Caracas resident told The Washington Post. “We want liberty. We want democracy. We want everyone to have access to food.”

Some of the roadblocks used fire as a way to deter people from going to work for 24 hours.

The strike has even reached some of the state-run gas stations.

Around 100 people have died protesting the Maduro government since April. More than 7 million Venezuelans worldwide recently cast symbolic, nonbinding votes to denounce the rewriting of the country’s constitution. Several countries and world leaders have come forward urging Maduro to stop to vote on July 30 for the assembly. As July continues, all eyes will be on Venezuela and Maduro.


READ: Politicians Around The World Are Praising The Results Of The Symbolic Vote By Venezuelans

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