America needs immigrants, no matter what Donald Trump thinks, Junot Díaz said at the New Yorker Festival Saturday morning. The Pulitzer-winning writer spoke with fellow author, and immigrant, Aleksandar Hemon, and the pair got into Trump’s controversial opinions regarding the issue.
“Without us this is a nation that falls to pieces,” explained the Dominican Díaz, who immigrated to New Jersey from Santo Domingo when he was six years old. “America is as addicted to immigrants as it is addicted to cocaine; you withdraw immigrants from this country, America would just be a shivery, shitting-itself wreck,” he said.
Trump’s assertion that all “Latinos are rapists” and his plans for their deportation ignores the “complexity of community,” Díaz said, adding that immigrant communities contribute a “tremendous amount of their life energy to this country,” and they don’t get recognized nearly enough for it.
For Díaz, reading is a respite from Trump’s senseless pontifications on immigration. “There’s a nationalist stupidity that weakens my soul,” he said, “Thank God for books.”
He went on to detail why he takes such heart in reading, noting that “it’s the strangest, most personal exercise that creates collectives.” After he reads something, he has to discuss it with someone, in an attempt to understand it. He is also compelled to rescue readers through his writing.
“It’s one’s calling as an artist to find out how to capture humanity’s diabolicalness and courage,” he insisted.
Despite Trump’s histrionics, Díaz has hope. His mother lives in New Jersey and has developed a rich friendship with her Korean neighbor. They do not speak the same language — yet somehow they are able to communicate. Stories like hers are his inspiration for both human interaction and his writing.
“There’s a hope in a tolerance for human translation,” he said. “It’s vibrant, real, and intimate, and I aspire for that.”