The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao Essay

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From the Massachusetts Book Awards – A Program of the Massachusetts Center for the Book A Reading and Discussion Guide Massachusetts Award Winner The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz Riverhead Books Prepared by Deborah O. Doulette Neilson Library, Smith College 2008 PRELIMINARIES Oye! Listen up! And hold on to the edges of your book because Junot Diaz has written this buenmoso historia that is muy, muy importante. And if you don’t speak Spanish/Spanglish, it doesn’t matter; this historia moves so fast, you might not want to take the time for translation. You’ll just be a little bit disoriented, a little bit of an immigrant in a new novel world. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao considers the story…show more content…
Oscar de Leon, born in the Dominican Republic in the early 1970s, later transplanted to New Jersey, grapples with a fuku that goes back to his grandfather who suffered at the hands of the Dominican Republic’s mid twentieth-century dictator, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. Diaz fronts his novel with a poem by Derek Walcott, Nobel Prize-winning Caribbean writer. The poem’s last lines, “…either I’m nobody or I’m a nation,” could be poor Oscar’s epitaph. You know already just by Diaz’ title that Oscar is not destined to live long. What you don’t know is why. Walcott’s poem gives you the first clue, but from then on you’re in Diaz’ hands. Oscar is a nobody in many ways: an overweight, science-fiction-obsessed black Dominican virgin – and as Diaz makes clear, the virgin part is the real oddity -- making his way through life in the suburbs of Paterson, New Jersey. But leer de nuevo, read it again. He’s Dominican and he’s black; so he’s carrying around in his body layers of stories that make up a nation’s past and present. Diaz’ text commands you to sit up and pay attention and do some d*** work to get at these stories inside Oscar Wao. Pay attention! To what? To language, especially the dialogue that bubbles…show more content…
And if you’re not well-versed in Caribbean history, you will be soon. And you’ll thank Diaz for opening your eyes. Copyright © 2008 Massachusetts Center for the Book From the Massachusetts Book Awards – A Program of the Massachusetts Center for the Book A WAY TO START Diaz divides his book into geographical and chronological parts. Only the parts don’t move in a predictable orderly way. Instead you shuttle back and forth from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey, and from Washington Heights in the northern reaches of Manhattan—enclave of Dominican-Americans--back to the island. Plus you move forward and backward in the twentieth century. The sometimes unsettling and rapid leaps might make you feel a bit jet-lagged. It’s a smart move by Diaz, because pretty quickly you’re experiencing a diaspora moment, trekking between old home and new and back again. As the chapters unfold you trace Oscar’s, and his antecedents, path out of the Dominican Republic to points in the United States. More importantly, you start to understand his family tree, way back to his grandfather Abelard Luis Cabral, a surgeon in the 1940s and the first target of the

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