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  • Esther Good

Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Updated: Jan 24

Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao follows the story of a Dominican family and the fukú (curse) that haunts them.  It reads like a perpetual adolescent recounting a gory film or an exciting urban legend. This presumed distance makes the darker material a little easier to swallow, but genocide, rape and suicide never go down easy.  The story starts and ends with Oscar, an overweight sci-fi nerd growing up in New Jersey who has bad luck (read: no luck) with women, but it dives into the story of previous generations circa the reign of Trujillo, the brutal dictator of the Dominican Republic between 1930 to 1961.  Díaz weaves an artfully told history of the Dominican Republic (beyond the “mandatory two seconds”) into the complex relationships between parents and children: what if emotional scars are your birthright?

Read this if:

  1. You want a fun but meaty read.

  2. You were ever an adolescent sci-fi nerd.

  3. You want a glimpse into Dominican history and culture.

Favorite Quotes:

“For those of you who missed your mandatory two seconds of Dominican history: Trujillo, one of the twentieth century’s most infamous dictators, ruled the Dominican Republic between 1930 and 1961 with an implacable ruthless brutality. A portly, sadistic, pig-eyed mulato who bleached his skin, wore platform shoes, and had a fondness for Napoleon-era haberdashery, Trujillo (also known as El Jefe [The Boss], the Failed Cattle Thief, and Fuckface) came to control nearly every aspect of the DR’s political, social, and economic life through a potent (and familiar) mixture of violence, intimidation, massacre, rape, co-optation, and terror.” 

― Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

“Sucks to be left out of adolescence, sort of like getting locked in the closet on Venus when the sun appears for the first time in a hundred years.” 

― Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

“That’s life for you. All the happiness you gather to yourself, it will sweep away like it’s nothing. If you ask me I don’t think there are any such things as curses. I think there is only life. That’s enough.”

― Lola in Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

“Ybon was the one who suggested calling the wait something else. Yeah, like what? Maybe, she said, you could call it life.”

― Oscar in Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao



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