Not much has changed with Junot Diaz‘s writing style since he dropped his debut collection of short stories, Drown, in 1996. In seventeen years, he has released three works of fiction: Drown, his famous Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and, most recently, This is How You Lose Her, another collection of intertwining short stories that bounce between the Dominican Republic and New Jersey.
I liked the short book of nine stories. Only 212 pages long. The Spanglish voice is always refreshing. Plus, I love the image of Americans reading it with a Spanish dictionary opened up next to them. Google Translate on standby.
This is How You Lose Her reads like a sequel to Drown. All of the stories could be scrambled together and they would still work. While both books have multiple narrators, the main character is Yunior. Both books deal with cheating on women, daddy issues, drug addictions, and following down a wicked path that the narrator tries so desperately to avoid.
After reading all three pieces by Diaz, it is hard not to assume that these stories are semi-autobiographical. My friends offered this explanation: “Regarding Diaz, whether it’s autobiographical, I often waver. I’m torn in deciding whether it is or if his genius lies in making us believe that it is. Every time I see him in a video (my brother’s talked to him twice, as well) I feel like it’s not really him, rather perhaps the Dominicans he grew up wanting to be, but I dunno. Complete speculation.”
Here is my favorite piece from the book: “Squatter chawls where there are no roads, no lights, no running water, no grid, no anything, where everybody’s slapdash house is on top of everybody else’s, where it’s all mud and shanties and motos and grind and thin smiling motherfuckers everywhere without end, like falling off the rim of civilization. You have to leave the rental jípeta on the last bit of paved road and jump on the back of motoconchos with all the luggage balanced on your backs. Nobody stares because those ain’t real loads you’re carrying: You’ve seen a single moto carry a family of five and their pig.”
If you couldn’t tell, I prefer the parts where he is in the Dominican Republic. Maybe because the descriptions reminds me of parts of Ecuador. Maybe because Diaz is more nostalgic and writes more beautifully when talking about his home country.
Don’t read This is How You Lose Her and expect to smile. A depressing journey down regretful alleys and late-night booty calls, Diaz has created a voice so strong that you are thrown into the story, whether you want to or not.