Age: 43.

Childhood: Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. At age 6, emigrated with mother and four siblings to United States, where his father was working as a forklift operator, settling in Parlin, in Middlesex County, N.J.

Education: Graduated from Rutgers in 1992; received an MFA from Cornell University in 1995.

Lives: In Cambridge, Mass. Also keeps an apartment in New York City.

Career: Has taught writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 2002.

Awards and Honors: 2008 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics' Circle award for best novel for "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." Fellowships from Guggenheim, the National Endowment for the Arts, Harvard and Wesleyan. Recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Rome Prize. Called one of the top 20 writers for the 21st century by the New Yorker.