I cannot resist a Junot Diaz write up, and those close to me know that; so within the first week of its release, I had gotten a copy of Junot Diaz’s “This is How You Lose Her”, a collection of short stories with the most predictable Junotesque theme of ‘infidelity’.
Having lived in and around New Brunswick, the favored setting in most of Diaz’s writing, for more than ten years, I feel a connect to all that Mr. Diaz writes, be it the Rutgers University Campus, the Dominican ‘bodegas’ around it, or the Spanglish which is now the second language of this university town. Additionally, I almost had the privilege of having Mr. Diaz as a keynote speaker at an event I organized, but for the stranglehold of decency imposed by administration who wanted a guarantee from me that Mr. Diaz would use caution with his language during the keynote address. An appalling demand considering his audience at this event comprised of 16 to 20 year olds whose language was for the most part a spattering of profanities in English, Spanish, and Spanglish! Until this day, I regret not having gotten that chance of meeting and listening to Junot Diaz!
Dominicans are a very interesting minority in this immigrant friendly university town, and I know for sure that there are several such Yuniors that reside in New Brunswick who have stories similar to what Diaz’s protagonist in all three of his writings shares with us readers. However, it needs the unself-conscious pen and the creative genius of Mr. Diaz to shamelessly live out these bacchanalian stories of infidelity and machismo in so engrossing a fashion that all moral and social judgments stand suspended! Not saying that Junot Diaz perpetuates the myth of male superiority because Mr. Diaz in one of his interviews admits that Dominican “culture leads us towards dehumanizing women in our imaginations. I and my male friends could not have been as fucked-up in our relationships, or done the things we did in our relationships, if we felt that women were truly human. Because once you empathize that they are indeed human, you become incapable of hurting them.” Junot Diaz’s successful representation of the Dominican diaspora in New Brunswick is because he has so much been a part of all that he pens. He is in fact ‘Yunior’, at least for the most part, and like Yunior has “lived in three or four worlds … but never saw any value in sealing off (his) background. (He) was critical, but (he) never felt one of the options was to entirely reject it.” Much as he cringes at and decries the sheer shallowness of Dominican males, refers to them as ‘dogs’ and ‘rats’, but Junot is always one among them and understands, even smiles at some of the debauchery that surrounds him.
Not a prolific writer, Junot Diaz has only a couple of major writings to his credit: Drown, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Monstro, and now, This is How You Lose Her. After each writing, he appears to have become more comfortable with his Spanglish alter ego Yunior and that has made his writing that much more appealing. I thoroughly enjoyed Junot Diaz’s “This is How You Lose Her.”