The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

by

Author:  Junot Diaz

Title:  The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Genre:  Literary Fiction, Latino

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages:  335

Geographical Setting:  New Jersey, Dominican Republic

Time Period:  Mid to Late 20th Century

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  Oscar’s Dominican line can be traced back to an affluent Trujillo-era family, a surgeon and nurse that existed in social circles adjacent to that of the the savage dictator.  Oscar’s lack of love (and lack of culo) may also be attributed to his quasi-royal grandparents.  By jumping back and forth through time, Junot Diaz presents the genesis and implementation of the fuku (“the Curse and the Doom of the New World”) that has plagued Oscar’s family since the middle of the 20th century.

With a casual, anecdotal narrative littered with comic book, Science Fiction, and Fantasy references, Yunior, a family friend, regales us with this searing family history that details the trials of Oscar, a hopeless romantic and obese SciFi/ Fantasy aficionado who wants desperately for a girlfriend (and to be the Dominican Tolkien), and places them in the context of the tragic family legacy that held sway over The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Subject Headings: Misfits (Persons), Social acceptance; Eccentrics and eccentricities; Interpersonal relationships; Men/women relations; Ghettoes; Ghettoes, Hispanic-American – New Jersey; Family relationships; Curses; Loss (Psychology); Persistence; Dominican-Americans; Hispanic-Americans; New Jersey; Folklore; Hispanic-American fiction

Appeal:  contemporary, character-centered, episodic, vivid, savage, sweeping, unflinching, anecdotal, affecting, explicit, harrowing, witty

3 terms that best describe this book:  funny, engaging, powerful

Similar Works and Authors:

Nonfiction

Trujillo is examined in Eric Paul Roodra’s The Dictator Next Door:  The Good Neighbor Policy and the Trujillo Regime in the Dominican Republic, 1930-1945.

Fukued?  Who needs zafa when you have Lady Suzanne Miller’s Omens, Curses & Superstitions:  How to Remove and Reverse Them?

Did Oscar need to focus a little less on his Lovecraft and a little more on his love craft?  Try Ron Louis and David Copeland’s How to Succeed with Women.

Fiction

Jessica Abel offers a story of self-discovery and personal growth in the graphic novel, La Perdida.  Carla explores her Mexican roots through misguided endeavors.  Personal and tense, Carla struggles to connect and her naivete ultimately lands her in the center of a violent plot.  Although simple, the artwork is evocative.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon is an effervescent tale of Jewish cousins/friends/collaborators that find themselves as pop-culture frontiersmen during the Golden Age of comics.  Another Pulitzer Prize winner.

In The Fortress of Solitude, Jonathan Lethem tells a story of a boy trying to find his place, being caught between two worlds and not quite fitting either.  Music, magic rings, super heroes and comic books figure into the story.  Oscar would approve.

Zach

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