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  • Drown
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
This exceedingly strong debut collection of stories is set in the ghettos of the Dominican Republic and New Jersey, but most of all in the invisible psychic landscape of the immigrants who move from the first to the latter. Six of the ten stories here may be familiar to readers of The New Yorker, Story, or other well-regarded literary mags in whose pages they previously appeared. Díaz's stories offer grimly matter-of-fact accounts of harsh childhoods in harsh environments where fathers are either feared or absent and mothers are exhausted and resigned to their fate.
The stories set in the DR are from a youth's perspective, and have the unmistakable whiff of the autobiographical about them. In "Ysrael", the narrator and his brother are sent to the campo for the summer to live with relatives. There, they are casually cruel to a local boy whose face was disfigured by a pig. The boy later turns up as the subject of "No Face", which attempts to delve into his mind, with lesser effect than almost all the other stories. A third story, "Arguantando" follows the family from "Ysrael" as they wait to hear from their father, who has moved to the US. The final and longest story in the collection, "Negocios", explains the father's journey to the US and his many trials and tribulations before he can bring his family over.
The stories set in the US follow the young boy as he grows older in New Jersey-where shoplifting, drug dealing, and eventually work replace the poverty of the slums of Santa Domingo. "Fiesta, 1980" is the best car-sickness story you're likely to read and "How To Date" is a quick guide to interracial dating, perhaps overly flip when compared to the other stories. In "Aurora", a teenage drug dealer (the young boy grown older?) daydreams about a normal life with a crack-addicted girl. The same character reappears in "Drown", describing a former close friend's homosexual advances and his own ambivalence.
My favorite two stories were "Boyfriend" and "Edison, New Jersey". The first is a very brief story about a young man overhearing his downstairs neighbor's breakup, and working up the courage to eventually speak to her. The second is about a young man who helps deliver and assemble pool tables for a living and his well-meaning attempt to help a Dominican girl escape a life of sexual service. Both stories contain a wistful nostalgic air that's both dead on and haunting. All of Díaz's stories are immensely satisfying, and taken as a whole, they form an excellent picture of the Dominican immigrant experience. It's been six years now since this collection came out, and hopefully we'll be seeing something new soon from him.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Junot Diaz writes fiction without flourish. His words are stark, edgy, direct - and his stories cut through stereotype right to the quick of the truth. DROWN pulses with the rhythms of Spanish and New Jersey accents as it explores lives in both The Dominican Republic and Jersey City. Mostly adolescents and young adults, the characters struggle against a dimming or obscured future, and tend to live for the moment, even as they hope for something better. The most compelling stories are "Ysrael," "Aurora," "Edison, New Jersey," and "How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie." This is a brief book, only ten stories and only a few over 20 pages long, but it packs power with its brevity.

I highly recommend this book for those with an interest in Latino and/or multicultural fiction, and for those who enjoy short story collections.
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2003
This explosive collection of ten amazing stories vividly chronicling the Dominican immigrant experience is starkly realistic and daring. The stories are not necessarily pleasant, but are certainly captivating tales of the resilience of the human soul and of the will to survive in the face of horrendous odds. Diaz is intense and powerful, yet he possesses what I personally find to be a calculated calm in his mesmerizing prose. Moreover, he is totally unapologetic ---and that's a plus. I thoroughly enjoyed every piece in this stunning collection. Junot Diaz is at the top of my list. You are missing a rare literary experience if you fail to read him.
Very Highly Recommended !
Alan Cambeira
Author of AZUCAR! The Story of Sugar (a novel)
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2002
Before I purchased the book I read an on-line interview of Diaz by Edwidge Danticat. In this interview Diaz said that he didn't like it too much when readers thought that the book was autobiographical in nature. In the sense that it meant he wasn't creative enough to write pure fiction. I have to admit that half way through the book I thought that it must be part autobiography because the stories were so personal and the emotions bare and exposed. My favorite is "Aurora". Readers who expected romanticized Latina writing might be disappointed, but that is really just too bad. Diaz' style is authentic, modern, and edgy. On a personal level, it gave me a glimpse of daily life on the other side of my island. I absolutely loved this book and I recommend it whole-heartedly.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2000
Junot Diaz's extraodinary wit is easily introduced by making it past the first of stories in his book, Drown. You are immediately taken aback by his unconventional, laidback yet intricate string of thoughts. He is able to capture the crude reality as well as the raw ackardness of adolescence in an engaging series of stories. Having been born and raised in the Dominican Republic myself I easily related to Junot's transition from there to America. The familiarity and uniqueness of each small detail from his early days in the "campo" to urban living were significant and outsatnding to me. Yet Junot manages to keep the person most unfamiliar with any urban or foreign experience, or with Dominican slang for that matter, engaged and wanting more. I truly did not expect to find such whimsical and yet truthful documetation. Proving to be somewhat of a classic manchild's unconventional memoir, Mr.Diaz has the power to make you chew the truth and savour it. This is a subtle celebration of manhood disguised as a collection of entertaining snippets in the life of a true hero for the multicultural fascination in America today; a celebration which is not frilly, nor pretty, but entertaining and fascinating. Who knew emotion could be expressed in poetic discretion ? You'll be reading this one over and over. Trust me I've drowned on it several times already and am looking forward to my next dive.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 1998
When this book first came out I approached it with apprehension because it had been received with such fanfare by the literati and laymen alike. Indeed, so great was the hype that I honestly believed that regardless of the quality of the book, It would fail to live up to the praise bestowed upon it. Thus, you may imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when I realized that, in fact, Junot Diaz is an incredibly talented writer. I've read collections of short stories that showcase the skills of some of the most gifted writers of the 20th century, and, honestly, Diaz has written some stories that surpass anything I had read before. True, some of Diaz's stories are not as effective as the majority, yet that is because most of the stories in Drown are bona fide gems. I know I'm getting too effusive here, so I'll stop. Still, If you like to read good literature, this is a book that you definitely should consider. I look forward to reading Diaz's first novel.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2003
This book is a most honest and basic portrayal of humanity. Diaz's language is simple yet beautiful, and his themes are universal yet deeply challenging. The book follows the lives of different people, mostly Dominican, but it's characters relate to the reader's most basic human soul in the same way that Holden Caulfield does. A Brilliant Work
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2003
. . . but I hate Junot Diaz. I have been waiting like six years now for his novel to come out. When you read Drown, you will have to agree that he is one of the best of the young writers. You LIVE the Dominican epxerience through his words. The best story in the collection would have to be DROWN, which is a bit longer than the rest, but the humanity and honesty in that piece leaves you feeling as though you had just read an entire novel. We move from innocence to understanding to anger, regret, and longing all in one breathy, sexually risky passage in the middle of the piece that allows us to encapsule the whole work. The word "drown" takes on new meaning after that. I read both the English and Spanish versions, and the Spanish makes more sense because of the word play potential, but in the abstract the Engish is good, too. Come on, Junot Diaz, gives us a novel, man. You are the greatest!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 1999
This is an exeptional book. By far, it's better than any fiction I have ever read. Every Dominican-American cannot go without reading it. This is the first time I've ever seen a writter narrate so truthfully the joys and sacrifices of trying to reach the "american" dream. It tells of a reality rarely shared in the hoods of the east coast or the barrios of the island. I loved it. I can't even express how good this book is. Junot Diaz is a genius. He makes you feel like you are the one voyaging through these stories. He tells the reality of the so coveted "american dream" in words that bring you closer the the reality of this ordeal than any other. It left me mad because it was too short for how good it was.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2001
As a Latina, I'd always sought out books on experiences by people of color, and have finally come upon one that reflects my own background. Mr. Diaz's stories made me laugh out loud and cry at the poverty and abuses that, unfortunately, are a part of every day life in Santo Domingo. His depictions of the struggles that immigrants and their offspring face in the U.S. were dead-on. My only regret is that I didn't find this book sooner. I think Diaz is a very talented writer and look forward to more of his works.
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