The Book Bench
Loose leafs from the New Yorker Books Department.
This Week in Fiction: Junot Díaz
Posted by Cressida Leyshon
This week’s story, “Miss Lora,” marks the return of Yunior, who last appeared in the magazine two years ago, in “The Pura Principle.” In that story, Yunior’s brother, Rafa, has recently been diagnosed with cancer. “Miss Lora” takes place shortly after Rafa’s death, when Yunior is still dealing with “a fulgurating sadness” and also sleeping with his neighbor, an older woman. Back in 2010, did you know that you were going to write this story?
My brother’s cancer—what I used to call his exile to Cancer Planet—it’s one of those fractures in my past that I keep returning to. Very boring for readers, I’m sure, but all artists have their chronotopes, these time-spaces we keep circling, and this happens to be mine. But yes, I knew I would write “Miss Lora.”
Actually, I tried to write this story first but it just wouldn’t stick, and so then I wrote “The Pura Principle.” What really sparked me was that I was hanging with a group of my boys, they asked me what I was working on, and I told them—this older-woman thing—and a few of them started talking about their own experiences in high school. Two of them had been in similar situations, even lost their virginities to older women.
They were proud of what happened, too, a serious notch in their masculine belts. This type of impropriety was not as uncommon as one might imagine, not in a Caribbean community like the one I grew up in, where boys were encouraged toward a hypermasculine ideal, where the line between adults and minors was not as safeguarded as it should have been. Anyhow, this alarming conversation got me back on track. Ignited the work.