I recently just finished reading the “The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz. This book, in the most captivating way, weaves together the past and horrible history of the Dominican Republic with all the flavor of the current-day DR, the lives of Domincans living in the US, and so accurately gives voice to the crazy details of the culture.
Youre drawn not just into the life of Oscar, a overweight nerdy Dominican kid who loves J.R.R. Tolkien just doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere, but his whole family, stretching back into the past of how his mother came to the US and why she left, each page reveling a more of their history and their personalities, through their everyday interactions and conversations. Youre there. You feel you know these people. This isn’t a story of heroes. This is the tragedy of real people, in all their flaws.
Part of why Junot Diaz won the Pulitzer Prize for this book, is because of the incredible descriptions. This except I feel captures so well what is crazy swirling energy of Santo Domingo…
“…after he’d gotten somewhat used to the surreal whirligig that was life in La Capital- the guaguas (buses), the cops, the mind-boggling poverty, the Dunkin’n Donuts, the beggars, the Haitians selling roasted peanuts at the intersections, the mind-boggling poverty, the asshole tourists hogging up all the beaches…the afternoon walks on the Conde, the mind-boggling poverty, the snarl of streets and rusting zinc shacks that were the barrios popularizes, the masses of nig—s he waded through every day who ran him over if he stood still, the skinny watchmen standing in front of stores with their brokedown shotguns, the music, the raunchy jokes heard in the streets, the mind-boggling poverty,
being piledrived into the corner of a concho (shared taxi) by the combined weight of four other customers, the music, the new tunnels driving down into the bauxite earth, the signs that banned donkey carts from the same tunnels— after he saw again the unforgettable beauty of the Ciboa… stopped marveling at the amount of political propaganda plastered up on every space wall–ladrones, his mother announced, one and all—…after he’d seen his first Haitians kicked off a guagua because nig—s claimed they “smelled,” after he’d nearly gone nuts over all the bellezas he saw, after he’d visited all the rinky-dink museums in the capital with his sister, after he stopped being dismayed that everyone called him gordo (and worse, gringo), after he’d been overcharged for almost everything he wanted to buy…he decided suddenly and without warning to stay on the Island for the rest of the summer.”