Where do I even begin with this one? This is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel written by Junot Diaz, a MacArthur fellow of Dominican heritage who teaches creative writing at MIT. The novel tells the story of Oscar, a sorry-sounding overweight ghetto nerd and his family’s fukú haunted epic journey from Santo Domingo to New Jersey.
Overall, I would say I liked it and I’m motivated enough to read more of his writings. I found it tough in part because I’m not into science-fiction or Star Trek (the protagonist is obsessed), I don’t understand Spanish (there are phrases here and there that I’m sure add flavour but I wouldn’t know) and I don’t know the history of the Dominican Republic and it’s famous dictator Trujillo enough, but it is this that gives the novel such character. I do however know that Dominicans stereotypically reject their black ancestry and thus have a race complex and an awful relationship with their neighbour, Haiti and this too is portrayed in the book.
Yes, in the novel there are disturbing bits of rape, violence, sexism and misogyny but that is just reality. I say this in defense of the book in an argument with myself because my very first reaction as I started to read the novel was that it was too jarring and uncomfortable more because of the foul language than the content. But I persevered and when I became honest with myself I realized that of the few male writers I have read (and criticised for their portrayal of women) Mr. Diaz’ female characters are more real even if the book itself is steeped in sexism. As an aside, I am still looking for male authors who can write female characters realistically and who don’t just plop women into their novels to serve men.