Saturday, April 25, 2015

This is How You Lose Her

There is only one way to be introduced to Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz ("The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao"). You absolutely must listen to him. After finishing his short story collection, "This is How You Lose Her," yesterday afternoon, I mucked about the Internet enthralled by all of the interviews and lectures that I found. These interactions give you a feel for the man and for what a delight it must be to land in one of his writing classes.

This is how you lose her
Diaz is a writer who does not hold back. Be prepared for a wild ride if you decide to jump into his work. Born in the Dominican Republic and transplanted to New Jersey, now living in Boston, Diaz writes in a funky patois, half English, half Spanish, with an overridingly heavy Jersey accent. If you're squeamish about four letter words, he's especially liberal with the one that begins with "f," then you might have to stay away but, honestly, you'd be doing yourself a disservice.
Reviewers pretty much concur that Yunior, the narrator of these tales, is Diaz's alter ego. I thought as much while listening but kind of hoped it wasn't true because, as hilarious as these stories are, (I often found myself stopped at a light and laughing out loud to the consternation of my fellow drivers) there is an unmistakable air of melancholy and loneliness running underneath the surface.
One story recounts how Yunior, his older brother Rafa, and their mom, finally came to the United States after waiting for their dad who had been here and working for quite a while, to send for them. Dad had no idea how to deal with his two little boys. They had never actually lived with him and he had strict Dominican ideas of how to deal with women and children. Think seen and not heard.
For an entire winter, Diaz recalls, they were confined to a small apartment with nothing but a TV for company, while they peered out the window to see other kids their age having snowball fights and running wild and free. When the little cutie next door waved at him through his frosted pane for the umpteenth time, Yunior decides to make a break for it knowing he'll pay when his dad gets home but also sensing that it'll be worth it.
Most of the stories though are about men and women, the dating and mating dance, the misunderstandings, the miscommunications, the extremely angst-filled game that so many play as they begin that endless quest for "the one." And Yunior? Well, he has a problem. As his posse says, he just can't keep it in his pants. Whether he's sleeping with the neighbor who's old enough to be his mom, or with his brother's girl, he's always got more than one thing going at a time. And when he's caught out? Well, that the subject of another story.
Junot Diaz is also very conscious of his position as a writer of color. In fact he founded an organization called VONA
Observations on the immigrant experience, race and gradations of color are present in all of his stories and are addressed in very funny but ironically truthful ways. I don't have any way of knowing if Diaz's take on the world of love and marriage for the forty-something crowd is accurate but, if you've got the courage to delve into it, it's an eye-opener for sure.

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