Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Anne Reads Books By & About People Different From Her: Oscar Wao

I have spent the month of February with Anne Reads Books By & About People Different From Her. This past week I read THE BRIEF AND WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Díaz.

"Things have never been easy for Oscar. A ghetto nerd living with his Dominican-American family in New Jersey, he's disastrously overweight, keeps falling hopelessly in love and dreams of becoming the next Tolkien. Meanwhile his punk sister Lola wants to run away, and his resolute mother Beli can't seem to let either of them go.

"Moving across generations and continents, from Beli's tragic past in the Dominican Republic to struggles and dreams in suburban America, this is the wondrous story of Oscar, his family and their search for love and belonging." (from the back of the book)

OSCAR WAO won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008. I found it a unique, gripping novel. I kept joking with Phil while I was reading that I would have to speak Spanish and be a total comic nerd to get most of the references. I've heard some readers complain about this, but to me that was part of the book's charm. I felt completely immersed in Oscar's world. I found myself saying Dios mio! for days after. And isn't that the point of reading? To travel and experience whole other worlds?

I also appreciated Oscar, Beli and especially Lola (she was my favorite) as real characters. They weren't auditioning for sainthood, they weren't figureheads representing racism and the struggles of Dominican Americans. A librarian friend once told me that someday she'd like to write a book about an African American girl, set in modern times, in a middle-class neighborhood. The girl's problems would revolve around friends, boys and her kinky hair. I would happily buy that book.

Now, to quote one of my favorite Dar Williams songs, "And February was so long that it lasted into March". The sun is out, the library yesterday had a vase of daffodils, and I think spring has finally come. I will be sporadically continuing Anne Reads Books By & About People Different From Her, (my goal is 13 or more) and will post on books which I particularly enjoy. Please let me know if you find any you enjoy, too.

Oh, and to read a wrap-up on Jacqui's progress with Jacqui Reads Her Children & Herself Books By & About People People Different From Her, follow this link.


  1. Can't wait to read it! I recommend THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS! It's set in India and one of the most exquisite books I've ever read -- a journey across the ocean.

    And ... I LOVE your February quote. Though there's no cold here, it's been one helluva long month! Dios mio!

  2. Ohhhh, I'll check THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS. Sounds GREAT! Is it difficult for you to get access to many English language books?

    You should check out the whole Dar song, it encompasses February perfectly, the cold, the despair, the waiting:

    Dios mio indeed!

  3. I really enjoyed this book and I agree about how part of the charm is that he creates his own new lingo. And I'm so glad the project was/is fun!

  4. Thanks for the inspiration, Jacqui! It was something that had been simmering for a while, but it was really your post that helped me get my butt in gear!


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