Sunday, June 10, 2012

Reading THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO, Chapters 1 & 2

THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Díaz

This post is part of a read-along hosted by Plaza Familia. Chapters 3 and 4 will be discussed the week of June 11 and readers may post their reactions to the book at a Linky provided on Thursday, 6/14 at their site.

THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Díaz smoldered in my hands the first time I read it two summers ago. Literally. I'd never read anything like it and once I got over being embarrassed by some of the language, I was lost in another world. It's edgy and pushes the limits of decency, at times, with its sexual content. Also shocking to me was the sad but honest portrayal of the mother-daughter-relationship often experienced by Latinas. I believe that to fully appreciate the author's prose, the reader must have some basis in Latino culture and language, otherwise much of what is between the lines will be lost. It is a book written by someone who fully embraces his bicultural persona and is not afraid to surrender to the page. Without censorship. Without apologies.

The book opens with a discussion of the fukú, a curse believed to have been unleashed by Colonialism and how the dictator Trujillo, who in my opinion might as well have been the Antichrist, was the fleshly embodiment of this curse: a man who raped and pillaged his people and island. Worst for me was to learn that his dictatorship was backed by the U.S. How's that for a healthy dose of American reality, Pollyanna?

We meet Oscar, our protagonist, in Chapter 1. He's a Dominican nerd of epic proportions, living in Jersey, who's into science fiction, reading and writing. He's huge, wears glasses and is essentially a social outcast. No girl wants to have anything to do with him. At this point in the novel, the narrator is third-person and anonymous.

Chapter 2 is narrated in the first-person by Lola, Oscar's older sister, who is a strong and independent girl with a wild spirit. She's beautiful, thin, has long, straight black hair, is dark and intelligent. Her mother, a hard-working mujer, treats her cruelly and cuts her down every opportunity she has. What's beautiful about Lola is that she doesn't take it and although she could make "better" choices, more than anything, she has a will to survive.

I'm already into Chapter 3 and enjoying the rereading!