Sunday, April 17, 2011

One-Minute Book Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)

'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' would have been perfect for my now defunct book club. As soon as I finished it, I found myself wishing I had a friend with whom to discuss it. I didn't, so I resorted to the next best thing: Googling New York Times book reviews and book club questions.

Always one to root for the underdog, I wanted to discuss what I hoped would be a mutual affection for Oscar, the deeply flawed protagonist who turned stereotypes of Dominican men on their heads with his superbly nerdy vocabulary and hopeless romanticism.

As an aspiring writer, I often turn to other writers' "Top 5" or "Top 10" writing tips. One that sticks with me is to read the works of non-English authors. This was a tip I struggled with because probably 75% of my library these days is filled with Native fiction and non-fiction written in English. Although the majority of Junot Diaz's writing is in English, he integrated Spanish (sans translation or italics) and, at times, his use of Dominican-Jersey slang read a world away.

And lastly, this book is worth a read if only for its strong female characters. Although Oscar and the novel's narrator are male, at times their stories fall to the wayside as we meet Oscar's sister, mother, and great-aunt, whose equally powerful characters are what make Oscar, Oscar.

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