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Novelist Junot Díaz (MFA '95), returned to Cornell University on February 19, 2009, to be honored as the 2008-09 Cornell Eissner Artist of the Year.
Díaz, a professor of creative writing at MIT and fiction editor of the Boston Review, read from his novel, "The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao," for which he received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.
Díaz wrote most of his first collection of short stories (published as "Drown" in 1996) while in the Creative Writing Program at Cornell. "Oscar Wao," his semiautobiographical debut novel about the immigrant experience and much more, focuses on a science fiction- and fantasy-obsessed misfit living with his Dominican-American family in New Jersey. The novel also won the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.
In 1997, the Cornell Council for the Arts, in collaboration with University Council's Committee on the Arts, established the Cornell Eissner Artist of the Year Award to celebrate an alumna/us who has achieved national or international success in the arts. The award is named in recognition of Bruce and Judith Eissner's Endowment for the Arts at Cornell.