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Reviews of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

A Novel

by Junot Diaz
  • Critics' Opinion:
  • Readers' Opinion:
  • First Published:
  • Sep 6, 2007
  • Paperback:
  • Sep 2008
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About This Book

Book Summary

Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ - the curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations.

This is the long-awaited first novel from one of the most original and memorable writers working today.

Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ-the curse that has haunted the Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.

Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Diaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time.

one

GhettoNerd at the End of the World

1974-1987

the golden age

Our hero was not one of those Dominican cats everybody’s always going on about - he wasn’t no home-run hitter or a fly bachatero, not a playboy with a million hots on his jock.

And except for one period early in his life, dude never had much luck with the females (how very un-Dominican of him).

He was seven then.

In those blessed days of his youth, Oscar was something of a Casanova. One of those preschool loverboys who was always trying to kiss the girls, always coming up behind them during a merengue and giving them the pelvic pump, the first nigger to learn the perrito and the one who danced it any chance he got. Because in those days he was (still) a “normal” Dominican boy raised in a “typical” Dominican family, his nascent pimpliness was encouraged by blood and friends alike. During parties - and there were many many parties in those long-ago seventies days, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
Introduction

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao tells the story of Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fukú—the ancient curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and ill-starred romance. Oscar, still dreaming of his first kiss, is only its most recent victim—until the fateful summer that he decides to be its last.

With dazzling energy and insight, Junot Díaz immerses us in the uproarious lives of our hero Oscar, his ...
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  • award image

    National Book Critics Circle Awards
    2007

  • award image

    Pulitzer Prize
    2008

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

As we flip back and forth, character to character, narrator to narrator, Diaz's prose-dance continues to dazzle as the story takes on greater weight as the history piles on – but it's not just dazzling for the sake of the dazzle. He loves the performance, but not for the applause. He loves doing it, loves the writing, loves the rush and the game, and most of all the promise, the hope, the bet, that you, the reader, will fall in love, too...continued

Full Review (597 words)

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(Reviewed by Lucia Silva).

Media Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
Terrific... Narrated in high-energy Spanglish, the book is packed with wide-ranging cultural references - to Dune, Julia Alvarez, The Sound of Music - as well as erudite and hilarious footnotes on Caribbean history. It is a joy to read, and every bit as exhilarating to reread.

Time
Astoundingly great.... You could call The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao the saga of an immigrant family, but that wouldn't really be fair. It's an immigrant-family saga for people who don't read immigrant-family sagas.

Newsweek - David Gates
Now that D’az's second book, a novel called The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, has finally arrived, younger writers will find that the bar. And some older writers - we know who we are - might want to think about stepping up their game. Oscar Wao shows a novelist engaged with the culture, high and low, and its polyglot language

Booklist - Donna Seaman
Starred Review. Propelled by compassion, Díaz's novel is intrepid and radiant.

Kirkus Reviews
Despite a less sure-footed conclusion, Diaz's reverse family saga, crossed with withering political satire, makes for a compelling, sex-fueled, 21st-century tragi-comedy with a magical twist.

Publishers Weekly (Signature Reviewed by Matthew Sharpe)
The later Oscar chapters lack the linguistic brio of the others, and there are exposition-clogged passages that read like summaries of a longer narrative, but mostly this fierce, funny, tragic book is just what a reader would have hoped for in a novel by Junot Diaz.

Reader Reviews

Dhruv Kandhari

Review of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz is a novel published in the year 2007 to unprecedented acclaim, and the novel turned to be a huge critical and popular success winning The National Book Critics Award and The Pulitzer Prize for ...   Read More
Ali_BL

Fantastic novel, not too happy about how dominican men are portrayed
This book is well written, smart, funny and unpretentious, and it has one of the few endings that have made me cry, ever. Unlike other books where you are built up and feel disappointed about the lack or originality in which the story unfolds, this ...   Read More
Kim

Deserving of the hype.
What an odd book! It’s without doubt one of the most unusual novels I’ve ever read. I think I did like it, more or less, and I recommend reading it. It’s so different, though, that it left me unsure for awhile as to how I felt about it. I’m ...   Read More
J. Arnold

Provocative voices and enthralling history
Diaz's first novel, after his short story collection Drown, is an exciting entry in the growing list of Caribbean literature. Diaz tells the story of the unlucky - in so many ways - Oscar de Leon through multiple voices, detailing the fuku that ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book



A Short History of the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic occupies two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti (map). Claimed by Christopher Columbus in 1492, Hispaniola became a springboard for Spanish conquest of the Caribbean and the American mainland. In 1697, Spain recognized French dominion over the western third of the island, which became Haiti in 1804. The remainder of the island sought to gain its own independence in 1821, but was conquered and ruled by the Haitians for 22 years. It finally attained independence as the Dominican Republic in 1844. In 1861, the Dominicans voluntarily returned to the Spanish Empire, but two years later they launched a war that restored independence in 1865.

A legacy of unsettled, mostly non-representative rule ...

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