BILL MOYERS: What did you read growing up that you think did strike a spark, did-- did rouse the passion?

JUNOT DIAZ: I think what happened to me was that I had-- I had never seen a library before. Like, I'll tell you, my neighborhood in Dominican Republic is people had a book and that was the Bible. And that was it. I'd never seen two books together. And I immigrated. And my library at Madison Park Grammar School, Elementary School. Mrs. Crowl. She took a kid who didn't speak any English. She didn't speak a word of Spanish.

And she made it clear to me on the tour of the library in my first day that I could take out any of these books I wanted. And that was an astonishment. If you want to talk about-- that Henry James idea of a vastation, well, the opposite-- a change of the soul in a positive direction. This was a vastation to me, where it was like, "My god, my life changed." And I remember the first book I pulled-- was a child version of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur-- Arthur Conan Doyle's Sign of the Four. And-- and I never looked back. I never looked back. That library--

BILL MOYERS: How old were you?

JUNOT DIAZ: I was six.... I mean, it was an astonishing thing for a young kid who grew up in a society like Santo Domingo, where I didn't have access to libraries to be told, "Here, this is part of our civic resources. This belongs to all of us." You could do what you will, as long as you do no harm.

Junot Díaz on How a Library Changed His Life

December 21, 2012

At six, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz experienced his first library. In this excerpt from his interview with Bill Moyers, Diaz describes how the concept of taking out “any of these books I wanted” surprised and inspired him.

“It was an astonishing thing for a young kid who grew up in a society like Santo Domingo — where I didn’t have access to libraries — to be told, ‘this belongs to all of us,'” Díaz tells Bill.

Watch the full segment.

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