Earlier this summer, Junot Diaz was driving through Edgartown when he saw the sign for the Noepe Center for Literary Arts. Mr. Diaz has been a regular visitor to the Vineyard since 1988, but this was the first time he had noticed the literary center. He immediately checked in with Justen Ahren, the founder and executive director, and asked what was going on.

In certain circles, this was the equivalent of Keith Richards stumbling into an independent record store, and asking “Anybody want to jam?”

Junot Diaz burst onto the literary scene in 1996 with the publication of his book of short stories, Drown. In 2007 he won the Pulitzer Prize for his second book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. His third book, This Is How You Lose Her, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Mr. Diaz grew up in the Dominican Republic and then moved to New Jersey at the age of six. During his career he has not only given voice to the immigrant experience, he gave it cojones. 

Mr. Ahren immediately asked Mr. Diaz to give a reading, which the author will do on Thursday, July 30, at 4:30 p.m.

“And if everything works out for us, next year we’ll do more,” Mr. Diaz said in an interview this week on Main street in Vineyard Haven. Due to a bad back, he stood during the conversation, which seemed appropriate. Like his writing, Mr. Diaz does not speak in whispers. His message is booming and articulate. Passersby stopped to listen, and more than one thanked him for what he said.

His books speak for themselves. His acknowledgements rock, too. His are not the dusty list of thank-yous or quick sign-offs to mom or a loved one.

In Drown he thanks the Welfare Poets for giving him music, and his teachers and librarians for giving him books. He pledges his life to others and acknowledges his mentors as miracles.

After the success of his first book, it took 11 years for him to write Oscar Wao. In that book he thanks Nicole Aragi, “who in eleven years never gave up on me, even when I did.”

“The debts are deep,” he explained. “And what I am always left with at the end of any literary project is how much I have ridden on the munificence and generosity and compassion of others. You think about it a lot. Shoot, I think I tend to walk around thinking about it even years afterwards. If these individuals didn’t come together for me, this book would have never come together. The suite of interventions that make any literary act possible, there are just so many levels of help.”

One reason Mr. Diaz takes so long between projects is his ambivalence with the process, he said. But he is not talking about the angst of an artist or writer’s block. For him the experience goes much deeper, to a cellular and societal level.

“The reality of being a writer is that you are the only one who speaks,” he said. “You can disguise it, put in different characters, but living that long in such a dictatorial space, perhaps it’s me being a child of a dictatorship, but I have never been comfortable with that level of control . . . . My spirit is anti-dictatorial. My practice is overwhelmingly dictatorial. And of course that means there is going to be ambivalence.”

But while the process may be counter to his way of life, the result does not feel this way. The long wait for Oscar Wao may have had many wondering what happened, and more than a few whispering one-trick pony, but the reality was that Mr. Diaz needed to learn how to drive this new machine.

“My range of ability had deepened,” he said. “I was broadcasting across three or four channels and that’s fine and I made the most of it. And then fast forward and I’m broadcasting on five or six channels.” He continued:

“I think the thing with the first book is no one is expecting it, no one cares. The second book you can either bend to expectations or you can use the confidence gained from the first book to actually deny it all. To go down a completely different weird-ass road.”

He draws inspiration from other writers and from reading. He has said that his one main super power is reading, and that he can keep going and going and retain it all. Throughout his career he has also maintained a friendship with Edwidge Danticat, an award-winning writer in her own right who was born in Haiti and moved to the U.S. as a young girl.

“I’m very fortunate to have her as a friend, an ally and a fellow traveler,” he said. “It’s a lonely world out there and it would be a lot lonelier without Edwidge.”

Haiti and the Dominican Republic share a land mass but there are deeply rooted prejudices between the two societies.

“And commonalities. And if you said commonalities, I would have said prejudices,” he said. “It’s the simultaneity, the proximity of these two things that speaks so deeply to the human condition overall. It’s amazing, we can share an island, we can share blood and yet we will be historically as divided as two people living on different planets. Humans. Can’t help it. I thought someone would have finally bred this out of us, but that seems not to be our lot.”

Not that Mr. Diaz is resigned to the hopelessness of our fate, or the fate of his people. The world he conjures up and what happens to his characters can be painful and is often brutal, but it is always brought forth with such comedic adrenalin and deeply felt sympathy that the result is hopeful even when searing. He also works hard to give back a part of what he has learned. Over a decade ago, he created Voices of Our Nation, a writing retreat center in Miami for writers of color.

“I probably would have worked more if I took care of other people less, but I enjoy it and it’s very valuable,” he said. “I am no victim here. This has been deeply satisfying. And as we’ve seen, this is not a country that is very comfortable with putting the sort of needs and the kind of views and the kind of visions of people of color front and center. This country does not like or feel comfortable with that. Unfortunately we have to work against that, but also we have to create spaces for voices of color, which is our future, there is no question that the future of our nation is colored.”

He also teaches at MIT, which on the surface might appear to be a much different population than the one he works with in Miami. But at its core, he feels it is one that needs just as much tenderness and help.

“A statistic said 1,000 undergraduates commit suicide in the American school system every year,” he said. “That’s not just the stuff that’s happening at home. These kids are under a lot of pressure. Not just the schools, but the whole country has overwhelmingly decided that the best way to deal with young people is to make them deeply afraid of everything. And to convince themselves that their school success is the only measure of their worth. And you wonder why so many of our kids find it so difficult to have a healthy positive sense of themselves . . . . You can’t be a person of value in an of yourself. What are your grades, where did you go to school, what job you got, what you make, that is demolishing to anyone — and imagine someone who is young.

“It’s nice to have an instructor who front and center makes this part of the learning. But what they say in class is not what they learned and how it affects them. It’s longitudinal. Nothing they say to me matters as much as what they do when I’m not around . . . . There is stuff we can adjust as teachers but the deepest stuff, the ethical stuff, it’s hard to know. I don’t mind not having results because what I’m telling them is immediate results are no judge of who you are and I assume the same is true for me.”

Speaking of immediate results, when asked what he is working on now, Mr. Diaz responds without hesitation.

“Nothing. I think I know that it’s sad from one perspective but not from another. I sometimes think I need to get a new literary engine, but it’s what I got.”

And with that Mr. Diaz walks off. Not to think deep thoughts or scribble away in a cafe. He is headed to the hospital where he spent the better part of the day before. A friend’s son took a header on his bicycle and he wants to be with him, to sit by him and see what he can do to help. That is what he is working on now, right now.

Junot Diaz will be at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts at 104 Main street, Edgartown on Thursday, July 30, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Tickets are $25.