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Author Junot Diaz Visits Anniversary Party at Upper Manhattan Bookstore

By  Paul Lomax and Carla Zanoni | June 8, 2012 9:54am 

Junot Diaz, the author of
Junot Diaz, the author of "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," told DNAinfo.com New York that he was thrilled to be part of a celebration of literature in Washington Heights during the fundraising kick off at Word Up Community Bookstore, June 7, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Word Up Community Bookstore, a pop-up shop originally intended to be open for a single month, celebrated its one year anniversary Thursday night with a community party that featured Pulitzer-prize winning author Junot Diaz

Since opening last June, the space on Broadway at West 176th Street has become a go-to source for artists and local authors to hang out and perform.

The anniversary event kicked off the Word Up Birthday Fund Drive effort intended to raise $10,000 over ten days in order to keep the space open for bookworms, musicians and local artists.

Diaz, the author of "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," told DNAinfo.com New York that he was thrilled to be part of a celebration of literature in Washington Heights.  

"I'm a child of books and that's where my art comes from," he said. "So to see a group of young people who have worked together to profoundly change the local community is fantastic."

"These guys kick ass and I love them," he said of the all-volunteer staff that helps run the shop. 

The kickoff party was attended by a large crowd of local artists, writers, photographers and filmmakers and the event was introduced by Sandra Garcia-Betancourt, executive director of the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA), which partnered with the volunteers to open the bookstore last year. 

Bookstore volunteer Veronica Liu said she could hardly believe how much the store had grown in 12 months. 

"I remember our opening night nearly a year ago and asking artists, musicians and all people from the neighborhood to just walk in, to buy books, to hang out," she said. "And that's exactly what happened." 

A full list of the Birthday Fund Drive events, including film screenings, poetry readings and musical performances, is available on the bookstore's website. The ten day festival ends with a one-year birthday celebration on June 16, 2012.