So far, so good. Of my 2009 List, I am now two for two. I thoroughly enjoyed The Sea of Poppies, and I just finished the spectacularly beautiful The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Let me say that I didn’t realize just how “spectacularly beautiful” it was until I reach the very end. Throughout most of the book, I was simply engaged and enjoying the story – a coming of age tale of a nerdy, overweight and desperate immigrant kid, the New Jersey where he lives, the Dominican Republic where his family came from, the Diaspora, and the horrors of dictatorship and oppression. Furthermore, author Junot Diaz writes in an enviable vernacular prose mixing urban American English with Dominican Spanish. He even sneaks in my brother’s favorite word “baller” along the way.
What I particularly loved was how it was all a red herring, an excuse to hide a very simple fable-like story with an even simpler moral behind it all. Junot Diaz implements this whole ruse of colorful language, social and political commentary, and superstitious folklore to distract the reader’s attention so that when you finally reach the end and realize that the story is really not about Oscar Wao, it’s subtle message has a great impact.
And there I was the whole time along the way being duped — reading the book and thinking about my childhood best friend’s mother who was from the D.R., Dominicans in the Bronx and New Jersey (where my father and mother are from respectively), my increasingly Dominican hood in Madrid, the hardships endured by the nerds from my public school education, and Diaz’s cool ghetto Spanglish — and then . . . well, go ahead, read it and find out for yourself.