The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as narrated by Yunior tells the story of the fukú — a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on from Santo Domingo to the USA and back again. The story begins with Oscar’s tale as “a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd” from the New Jersey who dreams of “becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love” before moving onto his sister’s narrative, which Lola narrates for herself, and that of Oscar’s mother and grandfather. In between, the narrator is exposed when as he tells his own story. Ultimately, though, Díaz’s novel explores what it means to  be a Dominican in relation to love and sexual identity (because it’s all about sex).

I’m still not sure I liked or didn’t like this novel. Having broken this novel into four sections for my English class, I found my opinion of the novel changed with each section, and I’m sure that’s a reflection of the novel as a whole or a reflection of the reading schedule my professor devised. The first section we read (pg. 1-75), but after returning to the second section (pg. 76 – 165) wasn’t nearly as fulfilling or as exciting as the novel. It might had been better to read it all together, or it might not.

One of the things that really bothered me was the choice of narrator because it seemed very odd that Yunior would know quiet a bit about Beli, Lola and Oscar’s mother, and her life story, but we’re repeatedly told that Oscar and Lola know very little about their mother. It just seems odd that Lola’s on-and-off-again boyfriend knows more about her mother — deep, dark secrets — than Beli would be willing to tell her own children. I like Junior and I liked reading his insights into Oscar as a person, but I still found it strange he was the narrator for (almost) the whole book.

I think the swearing was over the top; done for shock factor. The content on it’s own should have served as shock factor enough, but I Díaz thought differently. That said, I thought Díaz’s presentation of Dominican culture and history was very interesting, and I enjoyed learning more during my short research project on race and identity in Dominican culture as seen in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Díaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: Riverhead Trade, 2008. Print.335 pgs. ISBN: 9781594483295. Source: PaperBackSwap.
Book Cover © Riverhead Trade. Retrieved: February 23, 2010.
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