A Brief Wondrous Life

Golda’s pick

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) written by Dominican-American author Junot Díaz is an epic family saga for the MTV generation.

The frenetic energy of the novel skips and jumps between time, place, and narrative voices, from historical and fictional with out missing a beat. Diaz even manages to use footnotes to give the novel an extra-diegetic content that is self referential in a way usually only a film can achieve. Although a work of fiction, the novel is set in New Jersey where Díaz was raised and deals explicitly with his ancestral homeland’s experience under dictator Rafael Trujillo.

Fans of Diaz will recognize the central narrator, Yunior de Las Casas, as the protagonist of Díaz’s first book Drown who chronicles the "Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," an overweight Dominican boy growing up in Paterson, New Jersey. Oscar is obsessed with science fiction and fantasy novels, with comic books and role-playing games and with falling in love and comes to be a physical embodiment of the general malaise that seems to characterize the Wao family. The reason for Oscar’s woes and those of his family we are told is that they are curse by the "fukú”, a curse so powerful it has not only plagued Oscar’s family for generations, but also the Caribbean (and perhaps the entire world) since colonization and slavery.You can not help but be enraptured by this tale or discontent, misfortune and struggle and though it does not conclude with the cliché surmounting of all challenges to find the underdog a transformed and victorious; there is no way you can walk away from this novel without a feeling of satisfaction.