The Big Read Blog (Archive)


"Lepidoptera 0004" by Noaha from Flickr ( / CC BY-SA 2.0)

New to The Big Read library for 2010-2011 is In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez's powerful historical novel set primarily in mid-20th century Dominican Republic. Among those chiming in on the audio guide is Junot Diaz, who garnered the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which is also partially set in the Dominican Republic. In this interview excerpt, Diaz discusses how and why fiction offers a kind of veracity that purely historical texts cannot.

[In the Time of the Butterflies] was extraordinarily powerful and human in ways that very few histories can possibly achieve and, in fact, I feel like the novel did more for understanding the Mirabal sisters than any historical documents that I have come across. I think it's less about a deeper truth and more about the fact that both sorts of narratives, historical narratives and fiction narratives, have certain kinds of advantages.  One of the advantages that fictional narratives have is their ability to sort of mimic or create a wonderful, accurate, if not realistic, view of a person's interiority.  In other words, fiction is brilliant at giving us the human,  at giving us hearts---as has been said by greater individuals---hearts that struggle with themselves.  That's not necessarily the interest or the claim of most historical texts. They're trying to give us different kinds of information.  I think that we need both and many other kinds of narratives to begin to address any historical period, but I think that people are especially susceptible, especially vulnerable to tales that foreground the human. People connect with people strongly, palpably, emphatically in ways that they don't connect with figures and they don't connect with theories and they don't connect with abstractions.  The advantage of fiction is that it's almost always about people and we love connecting with people.

Visit The Big Read website for application and guidelines for 2010-2011, and to find out more about all of the books in The Big Read library. 

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