My mother took care of us until my father scrammed, and then she ended up working in the small-factory sector of New Jersey with a lot of other immigrants.
Nobody warned me that when you fall in love, you really fall in love forever.
I always had a sense that I would fall in love with Tokyo. In retrospect I guess it's not that surprising. I was of the generation that had grown up in the '80s when Japan was ascendant (born aloft by a bubble whose burst crippled its economy for decades), and I'd fed on a steady diet of anime and samurai films.
Stories are hard. I have friends who knock out stories on a weekly or monthly basis, like they're running on medicinal-strength Updike. But for me a story is as daunting a prospect as a novel.
Even I thought I would be a writer who put something out every year. But that's not how it worked out.
When I think about my own relationships to the women that I really loved, it feels like that love, even after we've broken up and we're no longer speaking, that love never goes away. No one told me that.
A young person, or someone who's writing in a different way - in some ways you could say, eventually someone will find them. Eventually someone will hear them. But it's good a lot of young people persevere. Because sometimes you have to send something out a thousand times before anyone recognizes your value.
When I became my masked identity I was this incredible little nerd, but in the real world I had to be this tough kid from the neighborhood.
I don't think I could have tackled 'The Pura Principle' until now. It takes me about twenty years to come to term with any difficult period in my life, to get enough of a grasp on it to fictionalize it.
Even if you didn't come from another country, the idea of how do you make a home somewhere new is common to anyone who's either going to college, shifting towns.
Artists are not cheerleaders, and we're not the heads of tourism boards. We expose and discuss what is problematic, what is contradictory, what is hurtful and what is silenced in the culture we're in.
My thing is every generation of Americans has to answer what we call the 'Superman Question.' Superman comes, lands in America. He's illegal. He's one of these kids. He's wrapped up in a red bullfighter's cape. And you've got to decide what we're gonna do with Superman.
Love is understood, in a historical way, as one of the great human vocations - but its counterspell has always been infidelity. This terrible, terrible betrayal that can tear apart not only another person, not only oneself, but whole families.
I was in fact pretty much - by the larger culture, by the local culture, by people around me, by people on TV - encouraged to imagine women as something slightly inferior to men.
I think one of the paradoxes of writing fiction is when people enjoy it, they want it to be real. So they look for connections.
I write incredibly slowly. And, on top of that, I spent my entire youth and twenties working like a dog, so one of the things that happened when I finished 'Drown' was that I got busy living. I'd never travelled, I'd never seen anything. So I did as much travelling as my job teaching would allow.
My African roots made me what I am today. They're the reason I exist at all.
I think 90% of my ideas evaporate because I have a terrible memory and because I seem to be committed to not scribble anything down. As soon as I write it down, my mind rejects it.
I feel most like myself... after I run - I go out for five miles every morning.
Students teach all sorts of things but most importantly they make explicit the courage that it takes to be a learner, the courage it takes to open yourself to the transformative power of real learning and that courage I am exposed to almost every day at MIT and that I'm deeply grateful for.
There are a couple of strategies for writing about an absence or writing about a loss. One can create the person that was lost, develop the character of the fiancee. There's another strategy that one can employ, maybe riskier... Make the reader suffer the loss of the character in a more literal way.
It's extraordinary how many people read a book that's new and weird and befriend it.
The whole culture is telling you to hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Always listen to the art.
We get these lives for free. I didn't do anything to get this life, and no matter what the hardships are, it is free and, in a way, it's an extraordinary bargain.
The one thing about being a dude and writing from a female perspective is that the baseline is, you suck. The baseline is it takes so long for you to work those atrophied muscles - for you to get on parity with what women's representations of men are.
I mean, the nation in which we live - and the world in which we live - is so extraordinarily more like a future than the futures that we're being sold on the screen and on television.
Cities produce love and yet feel none. A strange thing when you think about it, but perhaps fitting. Cities need that love more than most of us care to imagine. Cities, after all, for all their massiveness, all their there-ness, are acutely vulnerable.
New Jersey for me is so alive with history. It's old, dynamic, African-American, Latino.
Colleagues are a wonderful thing - but mentors, that's where the real work gets done.
I read a book a week, man. And I don't have a great memory, but I have a good memory about what I read.
In fact, looking at the darkest sides of the United States has only made me appreciate the things that we do right, the things that we do beautifully. We are, for all of our mistakes and all of our crimes, a remarkable place.
My thing is, I'm just way too harsh. It's an enormous impediment, and that's just the truth of it. It doesn't make me any better, make me any worse, it certainly isn't more valorous. I have a character defect, man.
I look most like myself... when I'm wearing my black, nerdy engineering glasses.
It wasn't that I couldn't write. I wrote every day. I actually worked really hard at writing. At my desk by 7 A.M., would work a full eight and more. Scribbled at the dinner table, in bed, on the toilet, on the No. 6 train, at Shea Stadium. I did everything I could. But none of it worked.
In the end, all worlds, whether they're set in the future or in New Jersey of today, are fictions. Sure, you don't got to do too much work to build a mundane world, but don't get it twisted: you still got to do some work.
We have a whole bunch of young people and a whole bunch of families. Are we going to disrupt these families and tear them apart? Or are we going think, like, listen - these people are here. We've got to deal with this reality. We've got to extend the franchise.
We all dream dreams of unity, of purity; we all dream that there's an authoritative voice out there that will explain things, including ourselves.
'Oscar Wao' for example cohered in a period of terrible distress. All the novels that I wanted to write were not happening.
I seem to enjoy telling stories with a central absence, with a lacuna tunnelled into them.
I grew up in the shadow of the Trujillato, saw how the regime had ravaged so many families.
Stereotypes, they're sensual, cultural weapons. That's the way that we attack people. At an artistic level, stereotypes are terrible writing.
I do think that books are invaluable as a reservoir of what we call the human space. And this is why I think that, even if they're threatened, the work that they do has an incalculable merit.