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Drown Paperback – Import, July 1, 1997
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With ten stories that move from the barrios of the Dominican Republic to the struggling urban communities of New Jersey, Junot Diaz makes his remarkable debut. Diaz's work is unflinching and strong, and these stories crackle with an electric sense of discovery. Diaz evokes a world in which fathers are gone, mothers fight with grim determination for their families and themselves, and the next generation inherits the casual cruelty, devestating ambivalence, and knowing humor of lives circumscribed by poverty and uncertainty. In Drown, Diaz has harnessed the rhythms of anger and release, frustration and joy, to indelible effect. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
The 10 tales in this intense debut collection plunge us into the emotional lives of people redefining their American identity. Narrated by adolescent Dominican males living in the struggling communities of the Dominican Republic, New York and New Jersey, these stories chronicle their outwardly cool but inwardly anguished attempts to recreate themselves in the midst of eroding family structures and their own burgeoning sexuality. The best pieces, such as "Aguantando" (to endure), "Negocios," "Edison, NJ" and the title story, portray young people waiting for transformation, waiting to belong. Their worlds generally consist of absent fathers, silent mothers and friends of questionable principles and morals. Diaz's restrained prose reveals their hopes only by implication. It's a style suited to these characters, who long for love but display little affection toward each other. Still, the author's compassion glides just below the surface, occasionally emerging in poetic passages of controlled lyricism, lending these stories a lasting resonance. BOMC and QPB alternates; foreign rights sold in Holland, Norway, Sweden, the U.K., Spain, France and Germany. (Sept.) FYI: Diaz was the only writer chosen by Newsweek as one of the 10 "New Faces of 1996." Drown is a nominee for the 1997 QPB "New Voices" award. "Ysrael" will be included in Best American Short Stories 1996 and "Edison, NJ" will appear in the summer 1996 issue of the Paris Review. Riverhead will publish Diaz's novel, The Cheater's Guide to Love, in 1997.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
The characters are well developed in style and writing. You can hear the frustration in coming to a new country and speaking another language. Junot Diaz has perfectly captured the soul and heart of the Dominican experience in America particularly in New Jersey and New York City. I am familiar with the author's landscape in geography.
I can see this short story collection served as a springboard in writing his masterpiece, "The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao." This collection is a must read for his fans
Drown's weakness is really in its organization and in its transitions, or lack thereof. The stories don't conclude in a meaningful way, and maybe that's intentional, but I am not sure what purpose a cliff hanger serves if the author never returns to that character's story. I have to wonder if part of the problem is the Kindle edition. One character's story blurs right into another without so much as a heading or any space in between. I am not sure that a heading or a blank page would completely fix the problem though.
Drown is enjoyable but rather short and at times hard to follow. There are several shallow, one star reviews that claim Drown portrays immigrants in stereotypical ways, or say that Drown is full of character's with no redeeming qualities. These reviews are wrong. Every character in this book, including the absent father, has redeeming qualities. Diaz has certainly captured these qualities in his investigations of his father's past and he artfully describes them. Several of the character's have tremendous flaws and problems. So what. It isn't a fairy tale. The struggle is real.
In "Ysrael," two brothers walk to another town in the DR to see a boy who wore a mask (because his face had been eaten off by a pig when he was a baby).
"Fiesta, 1980" is about a party in the Bronx that Yunior, the narrator in several stories in this book and the primary narrator in Oscar Wao, and his family attend. In describing his aunt's place, Yunior says that it had "been furnished in Contemporary Dominican Tacky" (pg. 32).
In "Aurora," a small-time drug dealer tells the story of his relationship with a female heroin addict. "We all do s*#@ like this, stuff that's no good for you," he says (pg. 50).
"Edison, New Jersey" is a story about two pool-table deliverymen. Wayne is in his late 30's or early 40's. His partner describes him as "a big goofy guy - I don't understand why the girls dig his s*#@. One of those mysteries of the universe" (pg. 125). They deliver the tables and work in the showroom as the narrator relates the story of his recent break-up: "We stopped playing only when it started to go wrong for us, when I'd wake up and listen to the traffic outside without waking her, when everything was a fight" (pg. 132).
"Negocios" is the story of Ramon, who moves to America in the 1960's, leaving his wife and children behind him with the promise that he'll bring them over when he makes enough money. It's narrated by his youngest son, Yunior, who describes his father as "real good at planning and real bad at doing" (pg. 196). Ramon's story is one of hard work and occasional bad luck. Eventually, he marries a citizen in order to become a citizen himself, and he struggles with the guilt about his family that is still in the DR. The story ends with Yunior having a conversation many years later with Ramon's second wife.
Diaz's stories are filled with hard realization that the American dream for most immigrants is really an American myth - many more stumble along than succeed. NJ is a bleak place for these characters and their generational stories.
Díaz has won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for his novel *The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.*
Most recent customer reviews
The cultural lingo made me laugh constantly. A must read.