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First Generation and Representation, Entering the Literary World

Interview with Jose Hernandez Diaz

by Olga Rosales Salinas


It is not often that you meet a writer as accomplished as Jose Hernandez Diaz and later find out that his story parallels your own. I met Hernandez Diaz when I joined the writing community on Twitter. His blurbs, stanzas, and commentary on prose were engaging and worthy of a follow, not just on Twitter but on all social media platforms. Within a few short months, I had read his books and attended his writing workshops. His work is essential to the Latinx youth that it often uses as subjects and to the larger community of young writers and thinkers.

Today, my sisters and I are happy to share this interview with you. Hernandez Diaz and I discuss his experience while growing up as a first-generation Mexican American living in Southeast Los Angeles. We talk about the obstacles that he faced getting to college and the representation of writers that influenced him into the literary world.

About the Author

Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is originally from Northern Orange County, currently living in Southeast Los Angeles County. He holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from the University of California at Berkeley and Antioch University Los Angeles. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020). His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Colorado Review, Georgia Review, Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, The Nation, Poetry, The Southern Review, The Yale Review, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He has been a finalist for the Andrés Montoya Prize, Colorado Prize, The Akron Prize, The Ohio State Press Prize, Wisconsin Series, and The National Poetry Series. Currently, he is an Associate Editor at Frontier Poetry, and he teaches Creative Writing online for Litro Magazine (UK) and other venues.


Olga: First, my sisters and I want to thank you for your time. As a scholarship, our goal is to amplify voices like yours, first-generation, Mexican American speakers of truth, love, and light. Can you start by telling us about your experience growing up in Northern Orange County?

Jose: I grew up in a first-generation Mexican American household of six kids, two parents, so eight of us in a two-bedroom apartment. We were somewhat cramped, but we had plenty of love from our hard-working parents. My older sister, Letty, was the first to graduate college, CSUF, which influenced me to study English Literature because she was an English teacher. My youngest sister, Juana, also became an English major, and she went to UCLA and Harvard, and she currently works for UCLA as a program director. As a kid, I played basketball grew up in a diverse community, both racially and socio-economically.

My siblings and I have degrees from Harvard, Berkeley,