Alumnus Junot Díaz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his 2007 novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and author of two well-received short-story collections, has a new book out. It’s called Islandborn, and it is likely to be eagerly read—by children. The inspiration for the picture book, illustrated by Leo Espinosa, came when Díaz RC’92 (a 2010 inductee into the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni) began unspooling an impromptu story during a car ride to appease a friend’s restless daughter who wanted to be told a story. Islandborn (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018), which has only a passing resemblance to that yarn, tells the story of Lola, a young girl living in Washington Heights, in New York City, who was born in the Dominican Republic (Díaz’s native home before growing up in New Jersey). Lola is given a school assignment to draw the place where her parents came from, but she is at a loss because her family had moved when she was a baby. To compensate, Lola asks family members to describe the island nation and their memories, accounts from which Lola draws pictures and puts together a narrative of island life. Islandborn tackles familiar themes for Díaz: having mixed feelings of belonging and displacement, and finding an identity in a new land.

Beginning in July, the Zimmerli Art Museum is hosting an exhibition of the illustrations from Islandborn, created by Leo Espinosa. For further information, visit