The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao


  Author: Junot Diaz

  Title: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

  Genre: Literary Fiction, Latino Fiction

  Publication Date: 2007

  Number of Pages: 335

  Geographical Setting: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and New Jersey

  Time Period: 1940s – early 1990s

Plot Summary:
Focusing primarily on Oscar, an obese Dominican-American sci-fi nerd searching for love and acceptance in New Jersey, Junot Diaz recounts the damage wrought on the de Leon family by the fuku, a supernatural curse that has tormented the family for several generations. Diaz’s narrator traces the fuku from its origins in the Dominican Republic during the dictatorship of Trujillo to its current home in New Jersey where it wreaks havoc on Oscar.

The conversational tone of this family saga leavens the darkness of the tragedy at play. While disaster plagues the de Leons at every turn, they love deeply and fiercely, and the complicated bonds between family members and lovers drive most of the action of novel. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a compelling look at life in the Dominican Republic during the Trujillo era and the Dominican-American experience as an immigrant in New Jersey.

Subject Headings:
Family relationships, Men/women relations, Curses, Dominican-Americans, Latinos, New Jersey, Dominican Republic, Loss, Misfits, Social acceptance, Trujillo, Dictatorship, Ghettos

Tragic, conversational, unpretentious, compelling, episodic, descriptive, introspective, character-centered, flawed characters, multiple points of view, authentic, urban, vivid, dialect, colloquial

3 terms that best describe this book:
Tragic, conversational, Latino

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors
The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de Robertis
Three generations of women search for love and identity in Uruguay during the politically turbulent 20th century.
Similarities: Multigenerational family saga, coming of age under a Hispanic dictator (Uruguay), character Eva becomes a writer

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
Coming-of-age tale of Dylan and Mingus, two friends growing up in a racially charged area of Brooklyn in the 70s, and the diverging paths their lives take in adulthood.
Similarities: Urban setting, precocious protagonists, fantastic elements

The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat
Ka’s father reveals that he was actually a prison guard – a torturer – under the Haitian dictator Duvalier and not the prison escapee he previously claimed. The narrative jumps between past and present to tell the tales of those he hurt and how his revelation affects his relationship with his daughter.
Similarities: Multiple narrative threads, alternating between past and present, family relationships, atrocities committed during a dictatorship (Haiti)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors
Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola by Michele Wucker
A social history of Hispaniola and the two island nations that struggle for supremacy over the land. Includes discussion of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo’s genocide of Haitians and the cultural differences that fuel their misunderstandings.
Similarities: Dominican Republic setting, discussion of the Trujillo regime, Diaz mentions the enmity existing between Haiti and the Dominican Republic

Something to Declare by Julia Alvarez
Bestselling author Julia Alvarez muses on her upbringing as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, trying to assimilate in New York, how she became a writer, and her experiences as a feminist
Similarities: Alvarez immigrated from the Dominican Republic, Oscar is also a writer

Musings and Meditations: Reflections on Science Fiction, Science, and Other Matters by Robert Silverberg
A collection of essays written by the acclaimed science fiction writer provide insight into the craft of writing and the science fiction genre.
Similarities: Oscar is a science fiction writer

Name: Cassie Carbaugh


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