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oscar waoTitle: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Writer: Junot Diaz

Publisher: Riverhead Books (2008)

Pages: 350p

Bought at: Drive Books Not Cars

This is a brilliant and compact story about a boy, who believed that his life was surrounded by Fuku or curse, started way way back from the previous generations in Dominican Republic. Oscar (who got the nickname Oscar Wao because of his obesity) is a nerdy boy, doesn’t have any friends, never been kissed (and been laid,of course) by any girl, and obsessed with science fiction.

The fact that he is a Dominican who lives in New Jersey and easily falling in love with girls doesn’t make anything easier. But instead of making Oscar’s story as a typical bullying theme, Junot Diaz brilliantly combined Oscar’s sad life with interesting historical background: The Fuku, or curse his family faced from a long time ago, since the first time Oscar’s grandfather messed around with Trujillo, the famous dictator of Dominican Republic.

From here, the story revolves around Oscar’s family: from his grandfather, a genius doctor who was accused being a traitor and having his life ruined in prison (by Trujillo, of course); then Oscar’s mom, who lost her parents because of Trujillo and unfortunately facing another problem with one of Trujillo’s family member. Then finally Oscar, who has lived in America all his life but still becomes a true Dominican who believes in the Fuku. Can he escape the curse and live a happy life? Or will he become another victim of Trujillo’s famous curse?

The narrator of this book is one of Oscar’s very few friends, who is also a science fiction fan, so don’t be surprised if there are lots of references from The Lord of The Rings and other sci-fi books (along with so many footnotes about Dominican Republic’s historical background, complete with its gruesome details). The flowing words coming out from the narrator’s mouth are very packed, sometimes rude (reminds me a bit of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in The Rye), with sarcasm tone here and there. But the craziest thing is, I started to believe about the curse- and hated Trujillo with all my heart! That how strong Diaz’s writing is, and I’m not surprised his first novel won the Pulitzer prize.

Glimpse of Junot Diaz (source from here):

Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed DrownThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her–> in my wishlist now!, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award.  A graduate of Rutgers College (Same college where Oscar went to!), Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Trujillo, the Short History (source from here):

Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina (October 24, 1891 – May 30, 1961), nicknamed El Jefe ruled as a dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in 1961.He officially served as president from 1930 to 1938 and again from 1942 to 1952, otherwise as a military strongman remaining the de facto ruler of the country under figurehead presidents. His 30 years in power, to Dominicans known as the Trujillo Era (Spanish: La Era de Trujillo), is considered one of the bloodiest ever in the Americas, as well as a time of a classic personality cult, when monuments to Trujillo were in abundance. It has been estimated that Trujillo’s tyranical rule was responsible for the death of more than 50,000 people, including 20,000 to 30,000 in the infamous Parsley Massacre.


Fuku: Is It Real?

There is no proof that what Junot Diaz wrote about Fuku in this book is real. Every culture has its own “fuku”, belief about curse and supernatural events. Turned out, what happened to Oscar is not about Fuku at all. It’s about choices people in generations chose for their lives – and how it could impact the next generation.

Note: this posting was written for “Posting Bersama” with BBI on Pulitzer books.