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With ten stories that move from the barrios of the Dominican Republic to the struggling urban communities of New Jersey, Junot Diaz makes his remarkable debut. Diaz's work is unflinching and strong, and these stories crackle with an electric sense of discovery. Diaz evokes a world in which fathers are gone, mothers fight with grim determination for their families and themselves, and the next generation inherits the casual cruelty, devastating ambivalence, and knowing humor of lives circumscribed by poverty and uncertainty. In Drown, Diaz has harnessed the rhythms of anger and release, frustration and joy, to indelible effect.

208 pages, Unknown Binding

First published December 25, 1995

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About the author

Junot Díaz

56 books6,788 followers
Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award. A graduate of Rutgers College, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,616 reviews
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,219 reviews9,923 followers
September 9, 2011
As when you're listening to some old piece of music you never thought much of, it could be a long ago seemingly throwaway pop dance number like This Old Heart of Mine by the Isley Brothers, or some slyer more college-degreed album track like (let's say) Life During Wartime by Talking Heads, and you suddenly jump up and think but - but really, this is a masterpiece! - it's not just another painting-by-numbers from Motown, it's not just another sneery too-clever construction you skip while you're trying to find Once in a Lifetime, Juno Diaz' tales from the front line of squalour and immigration aren't just another vicarious thrillseeking tour of Poverty-and-Ignorance Hell, not just another wound-baring stigmata-showing howl from yet more people from yet another abyss you wish you didn't know about. They're that too, just like This Old Heart of Mine is a great dance number, but there's this thing called an authentic voice, or whatever the term is. Now this is a thing you can't buy with money. It's where no one but this particular author would know how to describe this person or that circumstance, this pain or that crime, the unique inside the generic. A twist of brain and language, and eyes and heart and blood wrapped round it too. Junot Diaz is the author, Drown is the book.

The best story is the last and longest, but only because of what went before. Gloomily overhanging the earlier tales of kids trying to grow up in the Dominican Republic like a cloud full of bad rain is the father who left for America, who never came back, and who stopped sending money, and who never sent for his family to join him. What a shit! We get used to the banal outrage of not knowing what this useless fool did when he got there, what was his big fat excuse, how could he abandon his wife and kids, etc etc so that there's a real frisson when we discover that the last 47 pages will answer all these questions, and in a great reversal of perspective, you find yourself looking out of this bad man's face, sleeping in his cockroach rooms and working his 16 hour shifts and against your whole will, you understand.
Great stuff, and not one wasted word.
Profile Image for Myfanwy.
Author 12 books183 followers
June 23, 2007
There are several recurrent themes running through this collection (the lost father, the regained father, the lost love, brotherhood, betrayal--often sexual) but the one I found most striking was that of facelessness.

You would think that facelessness is synonymous with invisibility, but here it is not. There is something within that facelessness, which makes the person all the more visible--scorned, pitied, hated, feared, and by some, treated with great kindness. The faced want the faceless to be gone for good because they represent the worst fear: That you, too, might one day suffer this fate where all that defines you to the outside world is stripped away, where you are a stranger in a strange land--where you are unloved and unlovable.

"Ysrael" is the boy with no face, his face having been mostly chewed off by a pig when he was an infant. Because of this he wears a mask and awaits a humanitarian intervention in which doctors in Canada are meant to restore his face. But this day never seems to come and he is scorned and beaten, but he is also an object of intense interest. There is something about him that fascinates the other boys; if only they could just see behind his mask. But even when they do, it infuriates them, repulses them. There is nothing in seeing his face that makes them feel better about themselves. It only makes them feel worse, more powerless.

Then when the reader sees the world from his point of view in "No Face," we understand that though he is deformed and maligned there is still great hope and beauty in his world, though he might not realize it. There is something strong deep within that will keep him alive despite the obstacles. He is a survivor. He will run.

So Ysrael stands for the best hope of all of the faceless within these stories--and the message is to keep going, keep running, keep moving forward no matter how people will push you down and try to keep you from being seen.

In that, a book, which might otherwise be bleak, I found quite hopeful. And so, in the end, what you have is a collection of stories that are beautiful, necessary, and heartbreaking. Read it.
Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,623 followers
February 2, 2020
Yeah, yeah, once you get the Pulitzer your earlier works may be scavenged & retold and republished and possibly (if you ARE the literatti:) re-read.

This is my first foray into the infamous short story terrain animated by Junot Diaz. Yes- his first novel was outstanding, & just its level of genius is constantly debated: everyone is aware it's really f***in' good.

"Drown" is endearing. An autobiography of ten short stories that are exquisite maps into the writer's early life in the D.R. and in America. Junot Diaz is the latino equivalent of David Sedaris. Each one of his vignettes is a colorful & juicy morsel: word association: Starburst candy. While his story is his own, Diaz asks you to empathize with him and relate. This is extremely doable.

I am aware that Junot Diaz is a super competent storyteller, but he does subscribe to this Dominican Man attitudes toward women and about how owning things (including, well, women) makes you a man. He endorses this mysogynistic attitude but he is more like a mirror in this way--extremely unapologetic and still personal.

Highlight: the first tale is harsh and sad. The protagonist is evil and behaves contrary to how a hero usually performs. But the penultimate story revisits the little boy from the first, "No Face", (1/5th of the book is about the little disfigured boy, and you know the weight of this in the author's psyche) and at this moment you see magic materialize: a writer's guilt leads to some true immortal form (the best type, in my opinion,) of atonement.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,361 reviews795 followers
September 28, 2020
There's this white boy in the class that assigned this collection taking pot shots at it for misogyny, which is real easy when you're white and male and your eyes glaze over how deeply white girls and their white skin and their white features inspire both veneration and self-hatred. Objectification, to an extent, but when white's the standard of beauty and safety and the Dominican Republic's the name of the game, either you talk imperialism and intercommunity issues or you're just another colonial savior brat looking to save the brown women from the brown men in the name of divide and conquer. Besides, the gynephobic violence might be there, but I've read enough works that glorify that sort of shit to know Díaz isn't doing the same. The main short story cycle character Yunior doesn't go around blubbering at all the bad things he sees, but he does take it in without self-reflexive excuses or the defensive bravado so commonly known as masculinity. It's harder for me to poke at, as neither gender nor race are a common factor between me and him, but the normalization of hatred of women in literature leaves a bad taste that this particular collection did not spawn, so of course I have to peer at this result and wonder why.

I'm glad I didn't follow the class itinerary of reading only six or so of the ten, cause the nice and neat line of the beginning story and the titular story and the ending "this is what it's sorta all about" story is perfect for an MFA program and horrible for actually getting a sense of what is going on. Proust in the time of race and heroin. Sentiment in the time of the death of English dominance and the rise of destabilization of the canon. The homeland's death, the way out's denigration, the destination might be life but there's way too many white supremacist slags running things for it to be anything other than a capitalistic jumpstart and/or deathtrap. Emotional bonds are a pain. Sexuality's a pain. The acrid freedom of individuals in the US is on one hand the collective familial unit of man of the household Dominican Republic is on the other, and both will never be an option so long as gringa serves a conceptual purpose of sociopolitical self-defense.

If you're like me, a member of a white family stronghold living in the US, at one point in your life you hated these people. You loathed them. Never mind the billionaires buying up the legislation for fucking up those countries south of the border and the Gulf of Mexico even more, there's an immigrant who only speaks Spanish fifty feet away. Yeah it's a pain when people all over the world are headed towards your door, but that's what you get for always winning, always killing, always conquering, all over the world. All the time.

It's a mess, and I'm not going to say I adored the abusive relationship of this collection's "Aurora", but you don't boil anything down to a single issue and flip it off accordingly. You can if that one thing inspires enough virulent disgust, but not before running through all the context first. In my case, there's a Dominican-American kid with a heart rocketing around these gritty and lovelocked pages, so this is not the kind of player on which I can lay the blame of the game.
Profile Image for Nea.
162 reviews161 followers
April 25, 2016
It's easy to get so caught up in the misogyny of this story that you miss the point, but How to Date a Brown Girl is not just what it seems on the surface. It's not just a teenage playboy giving advice on how to get in the pants of a black girl, brown girl, white girl, or halfie. Junot Diaz always delves deeper than that. He shows us the protagonist's vulnerability through the boy's own attempts at seeming macho.

This story is mostly about a young man's personal self-hatred and the shame he has of his identity. People of color (often unknowingly) spend a lot of time "apologizing" for their culture, skin color, hair type, vernacular, socio-economic status; the way we walk, talk and exist in the world. That's what How to Date a Brown Girl is about. A teen who comes off as a self-absorbed, chauvinistic asshole when he's really just another damaged brown boy trying to wear a mask for the world. If the protagonist were self-aware, he might label his instructions, "How to Not be Yourself So That Others Deem You Worthy."
Profile Image for Jason.
114 reviews629 followers
June 15, 2010
I can't do it. I can't listen to books on tape.

Listening to tapes allows me one opportunity--one time only--to experience the writing. That's not my paradigm. It's not the way I've grown to experience books. I need to look at the physical words--they mean something. I need to reread sentences and paragraphs. I need to touch pages and manipulate the weight and rectilinear dimensions of the book. I need to interpret and define and orient and catalog the story into my own retrievable cranial network. I need to stop and think about what I just read. I need to see my progress through the book, the dogeared pages. I need to reference an earlier exchange of dialogue. I need to put the book down and figure out which of the characters in my life most closely represent the characters I'm reading in the book. Those are the kinds of connections, fiction to real life, in situ, that I've been doing since I began reading Hardy Boy mysteries at the age of 10. It's how my brain has worked since I was begat. And then, all those connections (both conscious and synaptic), and curious definitions, and mental images get all mixed together in the gray matter, and out through my mouth and typing fingers, comes a rather normal human perspective of a book that I can then talk about with others. Your reading experience, I suspect, occurs in a similar manner.

But not with books on tape. And not for me. After a 14 hour driving trip listening to Drown, I'm not prepared to write a review. Somebody else read this book; I merely heard it. It was their voice and their intonation and their glottalizations and their cuss words. Not mine. It was not my experience.

I can no more write reviews of movies for the same reason. I don't have a relationship to the physicality of a DVD. I don't understand why I can listen to a lecture (or a performance or music or see a painting) and retain the information I need, but I cannot have books read to me. Please explain. It's a phenomenon I can't figure out.

Drown sounded like a decent book, but I can't be sure. In the same obsessive compulsive way that I have to check the door to ensure it's locked instead of trusting you to have locked it correctly, I need to read a book, not have you read it to me. Reading is MY time; it's not OUR time.

Story, story, story,
Does that vanity plate really say 'DUMP'...?
...oh, story, story, story,
Damn, I just dropped a handful of sunflower seeds, did they get into the...
...oh, story, story, story,
Why don't you drive, and pass me, and stop staring so long...
...oh, story, story, story,
Exit 264, was that the exit with the cheapest gas last time...?
...oh, story, story, story,
So, 270 more miles at 70 mph will/should get me there by...
...oh, story, story, story,
An RV towing a boat towing a jeep with 5 bicycles on a rear rack; man, if that thing rolled...
...oh, story, story, story,
I gotta pee...
...oh, story, story, story.

I abstain from writing a review until I can read this book. So, in the meantime, I default to an irresolute 3 stars.
Profile Image for Stace.
6 reviews1 follower
August 22, 2007
I was lucky enough to have seen Junot Diaz read, and that cabròn was hilarious! His talk was fresh, lewd, direct, sly, sweet, and honest. Exactly like his writing. He spoke of how Hip Hop had informed his life and work, and how a writer must use experience to shape their art; auto-biography and fiction helix together. His street talk and easy manner reminded me of the slick Mexican kids I grew up with(with due respect for the differences in Latino cultures). No amount of vernacular speech could front on the fact that he’s an insightful and sensitive academic however, which is again mirrored in his writing.

“Drown” depicts poverty and struggle in a matter of fact way. It doesn’t inspire pity or admiration, it’s neither saccharine nor acrid; but there are moments of each of these things.To be able to describe finding a pair of jeans with the pockets turned out in a search for whatever by an addict semi-exgirlfriend, and making it sound sort of cute is masterful. The leaky-roofed, chronically hungry, parasite infested childhood sounds almost fun, but yet, you can tell that it isn’t. The strangest combination of flavors in the book is the pride/respect/disdain that is held for a father that abandoned his family in the DR for years while farting around up in the US. Because of the archetypical nature of these stories it felt like a wild biography, and I had to remind myself that they were only stories.

His writing style, once again very much like his speech, was clear and easy, if a little unconventional, and I had to backpedal here or there to get the gist. Mostly though it flowed so smoothly I was done with it before I realized. A great read.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
March 26, 2018
A delight, from a master of stories, and you can hear him read it here in maybe five minutes.


We start with some things to make sure you do to avoid a bad impression:

Clear the government cheese from the refrigerator. If the girl’s from the Terrace, stack the boxes in the crisper. If she’s from the Park or Society Hill, then hide the cheese in the cabinet above the oven, where she’ll never see it. Leave a reminder under your pillow to get out the cheese before morning or your moms will kick your ass. Take down any embarrassing photos of your family in the campo, especially, that one with the half-naked kids dragging a goat on a rope. Hide the picture of yourself with an Afro.

Gets at some race and class issues running throughout the story. Then there’s the things you do to create a good impression, even though there is a very slim chance anything will ever happen beyond kissing, even though Moms and the fam are out to a Tia’s apartment, and you are alone with her.

Tell her that you love her hair, her skin, her lips, because, in truth, you love them more than you love your own.

Hey, don't be offended by the story, if you have now taken the time to read it! It's satirical, the object of the satire mainly on him. Was part of Diaz's story collection, Drown (1997,which I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Elena Papadopol.
497 reviews38 followers
December 9, 2022
Un volum de debut foarte bun, mi-a placut :)

Imagini puternice si personaje pe masura, bine conturate - trebuie sa ajung si la Scurta si minunata viata a lui Oscar Wao cat de curand.

"Eu eram cel care dadea mereu de necaz cu tata. Parca aveam o datorie de la Dumnezeu sa-l enervez, sa fac totul intr-un fel care pe el il calca pe nervi. Certurile noastre nu prea ma deranjau. Inca imi mai doream sa ma iubeasca, lucru care nu a parut niciodata ciudat sau contradictoriu decat peste cativa ani, cand a iesit din viata noastra."

"[...] Nu le puteam vedea chipul niciunuia dintre ei si, oricat de mult as fi incercat, nu-mi putea imagina expresiile intiparite pe fetele lor. Niciunul nu se misca. Din cand in cand, masina se umplea de lumina grabita a altor faruri. In cele din urma am rostit: Mami, si amandoi au privit in spate, stiind deja ce avea sa se intample."

"Mereu fusesem trist maximum cateva ore si gandul ca ar putea dura o viata m-a speriat ca dracu'."

"[...] Cuvintele lui se incolacesc in ea, distrugandu-i domnul zile in sir."
Profile Image for R.K. Gold.
Author 14 books10.1k followers
April 30, 2018
Full review to follow
He’s an amazing writer but the story wasn’t nearly as captivating as brief and wondrous life so I couldn’t give it the full 4 stars.
Profile Image for Malbadeen.
613 reviews7 followers
December 12, 2008
The cursor keeps blinking at me, daring me to try and convey the magnitude of love I have for Diaz's writing but I can't...I'm a failure!

Every story needs is filled with sentences/dialogue that are gaspably good. My fovorite sentence in the collection is from the story, How To Date a Brown Girl, Black Girl, White Girl or Halfie. It is as follows:
"Run a hand through your hair, like the white boys do, even though the only thing that runs easily through your hair is Africa".

See what I mean?!
Profile Image for Tony.
920 reviews1,556 followers
October 10, 2012
I shelve my fiction alphabetized by author’s last name, each author’s works further displayed in chronological publishing order. Presidential biographies start with Washington and travel in order to Obama. Histories stands pretty much as they occurred. Not exactly OCD, but the nuns can certainly be proud of the order they instilled. So I can’t explain why, when I open a book of short stories for the first time, I do not read them in order.

I jumped around here, although I did read the final story last. Book closed, I think I would have been better served reading the stories in the order presented. Like Olive Kitteridge, these stories share characters and a family history. They must certainly be semi-autobiographical. They span locations: ‘Nueva York’ and the Dominican. And mostly they are in the voice of ‘Yunior’, a young boy with very wide eyes and ears. The language is hip but nevertheless restrained, almost minimalist. The lessons, though, are hardly unique: wounds of childhood, searching for some toehold, loss, fathers and sons. Such a different life told here, and yet I recognized, felt, the shame, the hope, things I can safely predict will eventually wake Diaz in the middle of the night, the wonder of it all.

So up you go, between Pete Dexter and Isak Dinesen, right before your later The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. For no good or special reason. Just because as things unravel, I will know where to find you.

Thanks once again to Goodreads Giveaways. Love winning free books.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,678 reviews5,255 followers
March 14, 2016
read during my Punk Rock Flophouse Years

I Remember: linked stories about growing up in the Dominican Republic and then New Jersey... a writing style that is rather tight, clean, stripped-down, deadpan... i would have preferred a looser, rowdier writing style... a narrative that is alive and fresh, with scenes that should jump off the page, and sometimes do... feels real... some surprising charm, many laugh-out-loud moments... and yet it feels somehow minor note - i guess that's life... oh no, am i getting a little bored now?... ah well, it is still a worthy effort.
Profile Image for Bart.
Author 1 book108 followers
August 5, 2008
If you haven’t already read this book, there’s really no need. Most of its best parts are recycled in Oscar Wao. A man without a face, people shuffling between Santo Domingo and New Jersey, some early experimenting in Junot Diaz’s “original voice”.

The toughest part of reading Diaz is trying not to put his critics’ opinions in front of Diaz’s words. Trying to separate Diaz’s at-times honest efforts from the hysterical effect they have on certain literary types is hard sledding. It’s not fair to the author to hold others’ inanities against him – except when it feels like’s he’s writing for a focus group. There’s more of that in Oscar Wao than in Drown, but Oscar Wao casts a cynical eye backwards onto Drown.

In this book, Diaz contents himself with being the voice of the Dominican Republic. In Oscar Wao, he’s the voice of Latinos everywhere. That makes this book a somewhat more honest, if less refined, effort.

Much of Diaz’s success – like most writers’ success – returns, in some part, to good fortune and timing. Diaz wrote Drown at a time when the conversion from literature to cultural commentary was revving up. Who better to marry the two than a talented writer of Dominican roots who told the literary establishment what others were afraid to say? I guess.

Since being a Dominican is what’s most important to Diaz – he does very little with the human condition, otherwise – one should probably rejoice a bit about the circumstances that brought Drown to the public. According to the tired narrative of such things, voices like Diaz’s were never given a chance before 1990 or so. If that’s true then it’s good that Drown was published. Diaz is a talented author who may just surprise us with an enduring work before he’s through.

If not, his works will serve as a good counterargument to the next generation of literary types who tell us Latino authors were never given a chance until (insert literary movement here) came along.
Profile Image for Matt.
22 reviews27 followers
September 19, 2007
One of the coolest things that ever happened to me was I got to participate in a creative writing workshop with Junot Diaz. My girlfriend was in the class also, which was the first time we had a class together. We had been living together for a little while, and even though we were very much in love at the time, whe would do certain shit that really got on my nerves, like for example always being late (as in over an hour late!) for everything. So on the first day of class, she came in (predictably) late, and he said something, I forget what, and made her cry. I remember being bummed because I was going to have to deal with the emotional fallout of this after class, but at the same time vindicated, because he finally said what I never had the guys to say.

My favorite memories of Junot are of him pleading with students to see a particular point of view, to demonstate it, cries of exultation when they did, his cursing, frustrated stammering, or a telling smile and tilt of the head while he was waiting for someone to finish saying something really stupid. To him, writing was as alive as the most current trend in street art, and that energy was -- out of all his lessons -- the one I took to heart the most.

I taught several of the stories from "Drown" in my 10th and 11th grade English classes over at Garfield, and remember them as being some of the more successful experients I undertook while working there. Although they're all connected (and I think "Fiesta, 1980" is the one for which he won the most honors), the story "Ysrael" is my favorite.
Profile Image for Julietta Efigenio.
78 reviews33 followers
February 4, 2023
"Drown" was Junot Diaz' first work, a short story trip with large families through the colmadas, make-shift shack homes, and fields of back country Dominican Republic. In contrast, these same immigrants (often the dad of the family) usually manage to arrive to New Jersey or Nuevo York, where they can try with little luck to make it.

Immigrant stories are some of my favorites: "Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt about his Irish family, Francisco Jimenez' works about his migrant farmworker family, "Gordo" by Jaime Cortez about his childhood, etc.

Although not billed as autobiographical, one may posit that the recurring Yunior character has at least some resemblance to the author. Perhaps the large families mimic some of Diaz' own life, and it is highly likely that the dad, if not identical to the author's Papá, shares some characteristics with his father.

These stories are mostly very realistic, descriptive and the writing style grabs the reader intensely like a kick to the gut. (For a few examples of this, see my brief quotes in the update I did before finishing.) The use of swear words in Junot's writing is well-placed and adds rather than detracting to the realism of the dialogue. There is also a bit of magic or irreality in some stories which contrasts nicely with the rest.

To sum up, I would definitely encourage any but the most prudish or violence squemish readers to pick up this book of short stories. You will find it hard to put down until you finish.
Profile Image for Ana.
2,352 reviews323 followers
December 5, 2017
This book is made out of short stories, but they all explore Yunior's experience as a Dominican Republic immigrant, his relationship with his family, the idea of masculinity, race and women. The writing makes this book stand out, Yunior's life being a fairly average one. It just sticks with you and pops in my head unexpectedly. It's not plot heavy, but focuses on the main character and how he interacts with others.

I like how the events are not portrayed in order, because the author uses this to get us to sympathize with Yunior's pain so that, when we find out that often times he is complicit in the outcome, we still can't hate or dismiss him. I like to compare Ysrael ("he who struggles with God") and Yunior (son struggling with his father's legacy).

It's a little silly to rate them individually since they are too connected, but out of force of habit, I did it.

"Ysrael" - two brothers are on a mission to unmask Ysrael, who was attacked by a pig as a child; set in the Dominican Republic (3 stars)

"Fiesta, 1980" - a son questioning how his father's affair will affect the family reunion; set in the United States (3 stars)

"Aurora" - a drug dealer can't forget his drug addicted ex-girlfriend; set in the United States (3 stars)

"Aguantando" - scenes depicting family life before the father comes back into their lives; set in the Dominican Republic (4 stars)

"Drown" - Yunior's best friend comes back from college and Yunior avoids him; set in the United States (4 stars)

"Boyfriend" - Yunior handles the aftermath of his break-up while his neighbors are also breaking up; set in the United States (4 stars)

"Edison, New Jersey" - new job and ex-girlfriend story; set in the United States (3 stars)

"How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie" - how to bring over girls you won't see again; set in the United States (3 stars)

"No Face" - how Ysrael handles the world; set in the Dominican Republic (3 stars)

"Negocios" - Yunior's father's imigration story and his messy family life; set in the United States (3 stars)
Profile Image for Madeline.
781 reviews47.2k followers
April 14, 2009
Ten short stories about growing up first in the Dominican Republic and then New Jersey. It reminded me a litte of Sherman Alexie's stories, albeit a little less poetic. But still very well done. We discussed "How To Date A Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie" at particular length in my fiction writing class, so I'll quote one of my favorite bits from that story:
"Clear the government cheese from the refrigerator. If the girl's from the Terrace stack the boxes behind the milk. If she's from the Park or Society Hill hide the cheese in the cabinet above the oven, way up where she'll never see. Leave yourself a reminder to get it out before morning or your moms will kick your ass. Take down any embarrassing photos of your family in the campo, especially the one with the half-naked kids dragging a goat on a rope leash. The kids are your cousins and by now they're old enough to understand why you're doing what you're doing."

Junot Diaz was one of the guests at my college's writers' festival, and I got to hear him read from The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. The man is hilarious and if you ever get a chance to see him do a reading, for god's sake go. The best part was the question-and-answer session at the end. Someone asked him a really complicated question about his writing process or something, and he spent a minute trying to think of a way to answer that, and then he just laughed and said, "I don't know. Um...fuck, you guys!" It was great.

Read for: Intro to Creative Writing
Profile Image for Austra.
645 reviews74 followers
October 18, 2020
Dominikāņu autora stāstu krājums, kur savirknētas dažādas epizodes no galvenā varoņa bērnības Dominikānā un vēlākās dzīves ASV. Kā jau ar stāstiem bieži gadās - to kvalitāte bija mainīga. Laikam gaidīju kaut ko vairāk, turklāt tā spāņu vārdu (īpaši lamuvārdu) lietošana priekšā un pakaļā nekādi nepadara stāstījumu autentiskāku. Tam ir citas metodes. Grāmata kā tāda bija gana interesanta, lai izlasītu, bet šaubos, vai turpināšu ar kādu citu no šī autora darbiem.

“Strange is the woman who goes strange places with a complete stranger.”
Profile Image for Dagio_maya .
933 reviews280 followers
June 6, 2022

Dieci storie ai margini.
Periferie newyorkesi o favelas di Santo Domingo;
baracche col tetto di zinco o appartamenti due stanze infestati dalle blatte.
Cosa cambia?
Un posto vale l’altro; la miseria di chi si spacca la schiena tutto il giorno e l’ostentata ricchezza frutto di lavori disonesti.
Schegge di vita raccontate da bambini o adolescenti cresciuti troppo in fretta.
Machismo estremo, padri che si ricordano solo come padroni e traditori, madri destinate a disfarsi sotto la pressione di un lavoro da schiave..

Pubblicato nel 1996, “Drown”, è l’esordio di Junot Diaz rivela una scrittura potente nel saper riprodurre la realtà del ghetto latino.

Molto reale e molto amaro..

” Viviamo soli.
Mia madre ha abbastanza per pagare l’affitto e comprare la spesa e io copro la bolletta del telefono e a volte la televisione via cavo.
Lei è così silenziosa che la maggior parte delle volte mi viene un brivido trovandola in casa.
Entro in una stanza e lei si muove distaccandosi dalle pareti di gesso screpolato, dagli armadietti macchiati, e la paura mi percorre come un filo.
Lei ha scoperto il segreto del silenzio: versare il caffè senza un gorgoglio, passare da una stanza all’altra come scivolando su un cuscino di feltro, piangere senza far rumore.
Tu sei andata in Oriente e hai imparato molti segreti, le ho detto.
Tu sei come un guerriero ombra.
E tu sei un pazzo, ha detto lei;
un grosso pazzo.”

(dal racconto Drown)

Profile Image for Lisa (NY).
1,552 reviews604 followers
December 30, 2017
These stories - about Yunior and his family in the Dominican Republic and New Jersey are so, so good. In a shattering, explosive way. Now that I've read his three books, I just hope Diaz publishes another novel or short story collection soon.
Profile Image for mis.
295 reviews30 followers
May 31, 2010
at some points, i really enjoyed this book. but i just couldn't get past the way a lot of the female characters are treated. maybe i just didn't get it, but i would have liked to read a story about the mother's experiences, more so than about the cheating father
Profile Image for emily.
388 reviews259 followers
January 27, 2022
Deserves a 4, even though I was very close/ready to settle for a 3. Despite being in a ‘generally quite distracted and not reading enough’ sort of mood, I was able to finish Diaz’s book in less than day. Do not mistake this for a light-reading though, it certainly isn’t that. Diaz explores and portrays ‘the immigrant experience’ quite brilliantly in this one, albeit with a bleak but true-to-life conclusion. I didn’t enjoy the narrative tone, or the characters; or even the style of writing, but the story itself is a winner (ironically put considering nobody really wins in the story – quite the contrary…).

‘Papi was a voracious reader, couldn’t even go cheating without a paperback in his pocket.’

‘She’s heavy but has a good face, makes me think of the one time we kissed, when I put my hand in her pants and felt the pad she had on. I ask her about her mother and she says, Regular. The brother? Still down in Virginia with the Navy. Don’t let him turn into no pato. She laughs, pulls at the nameplate around her neck. Any woman who laughs as dope as she does won’t ever have trouble finding men. I tell her that and she looks a little scared of me.’

I was told to read Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her on a creative writing course I took back in uni., but I never got around to it – mistaking it for some sappy romance. After reading, ‘Drown’, I might have to give that one a chance since I’m now more familiar with Diaz’s writing – which I find (more oft than not) intriguing. Hypermasculinity and all sorts of violence mingle intimately in the plotlines of ‘Drown’. There is a distinct bleakness in the repetition of events (different events, similar outcome sort of thing) that inevitably presents one with a rather depressing note – especially towards the end.

‘– had continued to put on weight after the birth of the third – and while Papi favored heavy women, he didn’t favor obesity and wasn’t inclined to go home. Who needs a woman like you? he told her. The couple began to fight on a regular schedule. Locks were changed, doors were broken, slaps were exchanged but weekends and an occasional weekday night were still spent together.’

The beginning (for me) was a more interesting read. The vulgar, and pervasive (predominantly) masculine violence (that permeates throughout the book) may be a triggering read, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the sort of writing that provokes an instant reaction/shock from the reader. It slowly gets to you, and sort of grosses you out bit by bit. In my opinion, the most memorable/shocking scene was in the very beginning early when the brothers ‘bullied’ a boy with a deformed face for no particular reason other than sheer boredom and feral curiosity – like a simply perverse adventure filled with purely malicious intent. Even though I don’t like the ‘style’ of the writing, I am extremely impressed with how well-written the setting/places and characters were.

‘I tried to imagine Mami before Papi. Maybe I was tired, or just sad, thinking about the way my family was. Maybe I already knew how it would all end up in a few years, Mami without Papi, and that was why I did it. Picturing her alone wasn’t easy. It seemed like Papi had always been with her – .’

Although Diaz is very generous with his use of vulgarities in his book, I was not bothered by it. Actually, I’m impressed – as I’m always impressed when ‘vulgarity’ is weaved into the lines so appropriately and seamlessly. Every ‘fuck’ – whether it be in English or Spanish, did not stick out awkwardly (and was never used to induce ‘shock’). Great writing, even though it’s not the kind that leaves one feeling nice and comfy. It didn’t feel like Diaz was trying to ‘shock’ the readers. He was just composing a brilliant story that happened to be extremely triggering (I’d imagine, to most).

‘Tell her that you love her hair, that you love her skin, her lips, because, in truth, you love them more than you love your own.’

Overall, the book felt very much like something that needed to be written. I’m very glad to have read this, but I definitely cannot say that it left me with a ‘good’ taste/feeling. But having read closer to a thousand books now, I’ve come to believe that – like ‘art’, one shouldn’t only read books that comforts one. It’s almost more worthwhile if it is a little bit shocking (but not ‘cheap shock’/shock w/o substance if you get what I mean). I’ve got a suspicious feeling that I might be missing a thing or two in the book (because I’m still quite ignorant when it comes to Latin American history – which is such a massive shame considering how much I love Latin American literature). Even so, I believe that Diaz’s book/work is very accessible – to anyone who is familiar/unfamiliar with the context of his book/work.

‘Outside the local kids were gathered in squads, stalking in and out of the lucid clouds produced by the streetlamps. She suggested I go to her restaurant but when I got there and stared through my reflection in the glass at the people inside, all of them versions of people I already knew, I decided to go home.’
Profile Image for Daniel.
243 reviews13 followers
May 12, 2008
WOW! Just freaking wow!!!

I picked this book up because I enjoyed The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. When I started to read it, I thought that this felt like a handful of failed starts to similar novels. But the further that I read into it, the more I realized what it was that Junot Diaz was doing, painting a complete picture out of multiple fractured pieces.

The writing in this book is remarkably sparse, short with details and full of space where you are asked to interject your own imagination. Diaz fills that space in an odd, non-linear way through the conversation and through the narrative from the characters in completely random fashion. But, the payoff is that as the short stories continue, he has given you enough clues to put everything in perspective.

It's then that you realize that the pictures are rarely pretty, often lonely, rich with emptiness and squalor, but not bereft of human spirit clinging to the promise of something...even if all that something is happens to be an empty apartment, a half-filled 40, a broken relationship, or a full syringe.

I very much look forward to all his future work.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,174 reviews8,401 followers
February 1, 2015
4.5 stars

I'm really amazed at Junot Diaz's ability to create such a richly imagined and realistic history of a fictional character. Yunior, the central character of most, if not all, of these short stories, appears in Diaz's other works, This Is How You Lose Her and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I think this shows remarkable skill for a debut collection, and to have all this story built up in his mind that flows over into his other works is amazing.

I definitely recommend starting with this collection if you are looking into reading anything by Junot Diaz.
Profile Image for Nicholas Armstrong.
264 reviews49 followers
July 7, 2012
It's a point of contention with me when authors ignore grammar. That isn't to say I'm against authorial intent -- not using a comma or using one for emphasis -- but when some are just tossed out lackadaisically I have to wonder why.

There are moments in Drown where there is no reason not to use the proper grammar, and being a big fan of the impact grammar can have on a reader (when used correctly) this irks me. Why do (or not do) something if it has no effect? It just seems lazy to me. On the other hand, the merging of dialogue into the exposition and description without any quotations does have an interesting affect. I find myself disconnected from the characters and the action; all of the story seemed to just merge into a single melting pot where there was no distinct action or break, just one seamless narrative. This was an interesting choice, but I ultimately prefer the norm. It was too easy for me not to care about anything I was reading when the dialogue was removed and tone was so journalistic to began with.

The stories themselves seem to fluctuate wildly in meaning, symbolism, and impact. Some of them are slightly whimsical, some depressing, some highly meaningful, but they are all (it seems) about the same character and his family. I thought it an odd choice that some of the stories would be told in such completely different voices. Yunior seems to waver between tragic hero and heroic villain. His father is much the same; (although ultimately more a villain) a figure of domination and pain upon his family until we are given 'Negocios', which seems to contradict much of what we know of the character. As far as I'd read before the father was an imperceptibly quiet monster with no concern whatsoever for his family or anyone else, and yet he is a young man with hopes and dreams and love. This is all fine, characters just like people can change, but there is no reason given. This character goes from optimistic to abusive in the span of pages and for no concrete reason. I do not think I am naive in thinking there should be a reason for this. I've seen any number of people change and it never seems to be just for the hell of it, so seeing it described in such a way leaves me a little perplexed. Also, I wonder how it is Yunior even knows these stories. His father hardly talked to him, and treated him even less like a son, so I have to wonder how it is Yunior learned any of this from a man who beat his family and cheated openly on their mother. Who would have filled in these details?

Perhaps a large majority of my complaints were done purposefully. Perhaps we are not supposed to know what exactly caused the change in Papi or how it is his son came to learn all of this, but dammit, that's stupid. I want to know that. Assuming this was actually Diaz, he knows, so why not tell us? Without the details these stories fluctuate in quality and cohesion and I can't think it would have harmed a thing to have let us in on the how and why.

It's an interesting style, but not, ultimately, one I am a fan of.
Profile Image for Josh.
307 reviews161 followers
January 12, 2016
An insight into poverty, family matters and ordinary life intertwined amongst several stories. Junot's anecdotes range from the barren streets of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in or around the time of Operation Power Pack, the everlasting-but-rewarding fight for the so-called 'American Dream' in Nueva York, Nueva York and a glimpse into the 'la loco' life of teenagers and their vices in Perth Amboy/South Amboy, New Jersey.

The main themes to me are the struggle of a woman forced to ignore her husband's infidelities due to a better life for not only her, but her familia; a physically disabled boy who's dreams of being normal doesn't supercede his wish to be a wrestler; the daily lives of Ramon (Yunior) and his brother Rafa in the Capital city of the island -- accepting who they are and living life day by day without worry; a somewhat irresponsible father trying to 'do the right thing', but fails to do so many times until he has no other place to go but in a positive direction.

I'm not generally into short stories, but when all seem somewhat random, but really show a complete story in itself, I find an interesting quality about that. This debut from an author, who seemingly came out of nowhere to now, 15+ years later, is appreciated as he should be. This book is rewarding in its purpose, flow and overall language. Recommended.
Profile Image for Marisol.
680 reviews36 followers
May 9, 2021
Libro de relatos del escritor Nacido en República Dominicana, pero estadounidense desde que su familia migró siendo el muy pequeño.

En ellos se percibe la semilla de un buen escritor, es decir hay párrafos muy notables, se esboza un estilo, y sobre todo existe mucho material personal de donde echar mano, me hace recordar por momentos a todos esos escritores que hicieron de su vida, la fuente de inspiración para una ficción que nos inquieta, porque por momentos se parece mucho a la realidad.

Aunque debo decir que la mayoría de los relatos dejan la sensación de estar a medio terminar, a veces se pierden dando círculos y no encuentran un punto final, como si la idea no terminará de redondearse.

Otros se sienten como tímidos intentos de algo con más fuerza e intensidad, como los pasos vacilantes de un bebé que recién descubre la magia de caminar en dos pies.

Los temas son los comunes de un migrante, la pobreza, familias endebles, vida en calle, drogas, violencia, escasez.

Para el que ya leyó al escritor le sirve para darse cuenta, de cómo las ideas fueron evolucionando hasta trabajos de mayor calidad, para los que no lo han leído es una invitación para seguir con su obra.

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