As a nerd might say it, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a “cornucopia” of cultures, social status, body images, and abusive relationships. Junot Diaz’s second book (first was a collection of short stories called Drown)stars Oscar, an obese, sci-fi nerd who is somehow love able despite being embarrassingly awkward.
Though Oscar is the titular star of this novel, there are several generations of other characters, both American and Dominican. Oscar has very little excitement in his life. It is the other characters who live around him, colorfully, with spice, violence, and lust that weave the texture of life around Oscar.. Oscar’s search for a life—more specifically a life that would erase his virginity– is the thread that binds the plot lines together.
Diaz takes us from New Jersey to the Dominican Republic as if it were as easy as walking through a door. The bilingual narrator of the story—a participant in Oscar’s tale—has a voice that is raw and uniquely modern—it crackles with authenticity and raw smarts. Like Walt Whitman’s poetry—it is a tale of small things with the import of the universe.
Dias’ novel is as entertaining as it is thoughtful.
*Since this blog is about teaching children, I note that t his isn’t a young adult book. It’s for adults as it deals with sexual themes and makes free use of all the attendant slang words for the act in two languages.