Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2008
National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction, 2008
Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fuku: the curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.
Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience – and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Diaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time.
Also includes the bestselling short story collection Drown.
©2007 Junot Diaz; (P)2007 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. and Books on Tape
"[A] wondrous, not-so-brief first novel that is so original it can only be described as Mario Vargas Llosa meets Star Trek meets David Foster Wallace meets Kanye West. [W]ondrous [and] original. … [This work] decisively establishes him as one of contemporary fiction’s most distinctive and irresistible new voices." (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times)
"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is panoramic and yet achingly personal. … It’s Dominican and American, not about immigration but diaspora, in which one family’s dramas are entwined with a nation’s, not about history as information but as dark-force destroyer." (Susan Straight, Los Angeles Times)
"[A] book whose imaginative energy, linguistic volatility, historical passion and all-around love of life (and its characters) make it one of the best first novels of the past few decades. … A profane and sacred, playful and serious, light and dark, filthy-throated and bittersweet treatise on life as we need to know it." (Alan Cheuse, Dallas Morning News)
Diaz is magic with words. The worlds he creates in New York and Dominican Republic are colorful. The characters are strong and unique, probably representative of people of this time and history. The plot line is unpredictable, revealing of real history , and imagined events which believably could have taken place. This story should be re read to catch all the flavor
"Like" is not exactly the right word (hence my 4-star Goodreads rating), but I don't know exactly what is. It is a 5-star novel (it won the Pulitzer), and I completely see why. I listened to this book, and really appreciated the talent and skill of the reader. The advanced vocabulary, dialectic "Spanglish" and profanity, use of actual Spanish, and references to popular and political culture make it the kind of novel that bears academic study: reading it at a desk/computer with a search engine in one window and a Spanish translation application in another, making marginal notes, etc. Not having the time or ambition for all that, I was glad for the expert audible narration that allowed the plot and character development to flow and shine.
It was still educational for all my laziness: the portrayal of the far-reaching effects of living in a country controlled by a brutal dictatorship (the Dominican Republic under Trujillo) and the "diaspora" of Dominicans to New York City. [From Wikipedia: The movement of a population from its original homeland characterized by social coherence within the diaspora community and ties to the ancestral homeland including a myth or collective memory, the idea that the ancestral homeland is the true home to which they will someday return, and a personal or vicarious relationship to the homeland that shapes their identity.] All of these concepts are woven through the novel, with an emphasis on the idea of fuku, a bad-luck curse that follows a family through generations.
The narrative structure features Yunior, semi-omniscient, both first and third-person storyteller, who plays a significant role in the lives of Oscar and his sister Lola. The novel includes too many interesting and significant characters to describe, and you have to read/listen to it yourself to get the full affect. As far as that goes, the book is full of profanity, unsavory behaviors, brutality (especially violence toward women), and limited amounts of respite from all that, which likely provides a hyperbolic, dramatized, but not completely unrealistic of real life for members of this diaspora. I really liked it; your mileage may vary.
Read this if you have any interest in Latin American history and it's impact on being a marginalized young person in the USA. Awesome innovative method of telling the story of the Trujillo era of the Dominican Republic as it pertains to the generation after Trujillo.
This is a fantastic story that went right to the heart of what are meant to be Oscar. painted beautiful pictures with words and took us into his universe from a friends perspective. I loved it.
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