Do you get frustrated by always being identified as a “Dominican” writer or a “Latino” writer, and never just as a straight-up “writer”?
No, because there’s no such thing as a straight-up writer. I think when people say a straight-up writer, what they really mean is a white writer. In other words, historically there has never been this concept of a nonracialized, nongendered writer. The fact that the word “writer” has to be modified so often is because everybody knows that when people speak of writers, we tend to mean, on an unconscious level, white males. And I don’t think that being a white writer and being a Dominican writer says anything about your talent with the material that you write about. That’s the important difference. People assume that if you put a tag on it, that immediately assumes that you’re a different kind of writer. But that’s not the case. Just because those of us that write in English in the United States are American writers, that doesn’t mean that we really have much in common.
I think that the reason I don’t mind being labeled or labeling myself is because I think the entire universe can be found in the Dominican experience. I don’t see the Dominican Republic as a limitation. People seem to think that coming from a tiny island with this really bizarre history in the Dominican Republic is somehow limiting. But in my mind, I think that the same way a small, cold, gray, drizzly island nation in the North Atlantic could imagine itself the center of the universe, I see no difference why a Dominican who comes from this tiny little place and time can’t also imagine himself the center of the universe.
From an interview in Newsweek.