Most helpful critical review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Review by Ruth Williams
on June 1, 2006
Drown by Junot Diaz is a collection of ten short stories intended to uncover the experience of Dominicans who immigrate to America. He attempts to explore how young male Dominican immigrants cope with living in America - the rules they have to learn, the rules they have to forget, in order to succeed or even survive. Although the characters are Hispanic, the situations - usually due to poverty - that they find themselves in are relatable to almost any immigrant group. His writing is spiced with flavor and a very direct attitude that some may find crude but others might find refreshing. Time and writing space is not wasted on pretty, flowing words. Rather, his honest style, which has a lyrical quality to it, fits the harsh, almost unforgiving, surroundings and experiences he writes about.
Diaz's characters are very interesting, created in order to challenge but at the same time, assert the stereotype. The characters' descriptions could cause one to easily label them, but like with reality, one only needs to read further to see the depth and complexities of the males. His character growth and development is very precise and deliberate, making them come alive. One would almost expect his characters to materialize right there. This strong connection that he creates allow the readers to truly delve into the mindset, thus better understanding not only the character but also the general struggle Dominican immigrants face. His stories are also filled with understated information about the environment the character lives in, not only challenging but also educating one about Latino culture and history.
Notably, most of the Spanish used in the book are curse words, which makes one wonder what kind of message Diaz really wants to send if - and I believe it was - this was deliberate. The use of Spanish to ascribe derogatory terms seems to be a weak attempt at connecting the languages and I personally would have preferred if he had either put more Spanish in other areas or used none at all. However, it could also represent the idea that, in America, words in English always appear good and clean, while when in Spanish, there is a "dirty" connotation. I was also slightly aggravated by how Diaz characters would jump from story to story. Some characters were in more than one story, with no direct, flowing connection between the stories. This made the piece seem choppy. He could have done a better job of connecting the stories, if that was his intention in including some characters in multiple stories. Nevertheless, this book was a quick and enjoyable read, and apart from the lack of cohesiveness around the stories all together, I would recommend it for anyone, especially teenage and adolescents who will probably be more able to relate to the characters and their wordplay better.