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This Is How You Lose Her Hardcover – September 11, 2012
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2012: This Is How You Lose Her features nine stories by Junot Diaz, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in 2008. At the center of each story is Yunior (making his third appearance in Diaz's work), a Dominican American stud who, despite his macho exterior, aches to be loved. At first blush, this slim volume lacks the ambition and scope of Oscar Wao, a condensed pop-culture epic. But Diaz has done an extraordinary thing here: He has taken Yunior's heart and battered it every which way to show how love--romantic, physical, or familial--can affect even the most masculine character. The final story, "The Cheater's Guide to Love," features the collection's stickiest line: "The half-life of love is forever." Diaz compares heartbreak to radiation, its strength decaying exponentially over time. You can bury it underground and try to forget about it, but it never goes away entirely. --Kevin Nguyen
“Junot Díaz writes in an idiom so electrifying and distinct it’s practically an act of aggression, at once enthralling, even erotic in its assertion of sudden intimacy… [It is] a syncopated swagger-step between opacity and transparency, exclusion and inclusion, defiance and desire… His prose style is so irresistible, so sheerly entertaining, it risks blinding readers to its larger offerings. Yet he weds form so ideally to content that instead of blinding us, it becomes the very lens through which we can see the joy and suffering of the signature Díaz subject: what it means to belong to a diaspora, to live out the possibilities and ambiguities of perpetual insider/outsider status.” –The New York Times Book Review
"Nobody does scrappy, sassy, twice-the-speed of sound dialogue better than Junot Díaz. His exuberant short story collection, called This Is How You Lose Her, charts the lives of Dominican immigrants for whom the promise of America comes down to a minimum-wage paycheck, an occasional walk to a movie in a mall and the momentary escape of a grappling in bed." –Maureen Corrigan, NPR
“Exhibits the potent blend of literary eloquence and street cred that earned him a Pulitzer Prize… Díaz’s prose is vulgar, brave, and poetic.” –O Magazine
“Searing, irresistible new stories… It’s a harsh world Díaz conjures but one filled also with beauty and humor and buoyed by the stubborn resilience of the human spirit.” –People
“Junot Díaz has one of the most distinctive and magnetic voices in contemporary fiction: limber, streetwise, caffeinated and wonderfully eclectic… The strongest tales are those fueled by the verbal energy and magpie language that made Brief Wondrous Life so memorable and that capture Yunior’s efforts to commute between two cultures, Dominican and American, while always remaining an outsider.” –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“These stories… are virtuosic, command performances that mine the deceptive, lovelorn hearts of men with the blend of tenderness, comedy and vulgarity of early Philip Roth. It's Díaz's voice that's such a delight, and it is every bit his own, a melting-pot pastiche of Spanglish and street slang, pop culture and Dominican culture, and just devastating descriptive power, sometimes all in the same sentence.” –USA Today
“Impressive… comic in its mopiness, charming in its madness and irresistible in its heartfelt yearning.” –The Washington Post
"The dark ferocity of each of these stories and the types of love it portrays is reason enough to celebrate this book. But the collection is also a major contribution to the short story form... It is an engrossing, ambitious book for readers who demand of their fiction both emotional precision and linguistic daring." –NPR
“The centripetal force of Díaz’s sensibility and the slangy bar-stool confidentiality of his voice that he makes this hybridization feel not only natural and irresistible, but inevitable, the voice of the future… [This is How You Lose Her] manages to be achingly sad and joyful at the same time. Its heart is true, even if Yunior’s isn’t.” –Salon
“[A] propulsive new collection… [that] succeeds not only because of the author's gift for exploring the nuances of the male… but because of a writing style that moves with the rhythm and grace of a well-danced merengue.” –Seattle Times
“In Díaz’s magisterial voice, the trials and tribulations of sex-obsessed objectifiers become a revelation.” –The Boston Globe
“Scooch over, Nathan Zuckerman. New Jersey has bred a new literary bad boy… A.” –Entertainment Weekly
“Ribald, streetwise, and stunningly moving—a testament, like most of his work, to the yearning, clumsy ways young men come of age.” –Vogue
“[An] excellent new collection of stories… [Díaz is] an energetic stylist who expertly moves between high-literary storytelling and fizzy pop, between geek culture and immigrant life, between romance and high drama.” –IndieBound
“Taken together, [these stories’] braggadocio softens into something much more vulnerable and devastating. The intimacy and immediacy… is not just seductive but downright conspiratorial… A heartbreaker.” –The Daily Beast
"Díaz manages a seamless blend of high diction and low, of poetry and vulgarity… Look no further for home truths on sex and heartbreak." –The Economist
“This collection of stories, like everything else [Díaz has] written, feels vital in the literal sense of the word. Tough, smart, unflinching, and exposed, This is How You Lose Her is the perfect reminder of why Junot Díaz won the Pulitzer Prize… [He] writes better about the rapid heartbeat of urban life than pretty much anyone else." –The Christian Science Monitor
“Filled with Díaz’s signature searing voice, loveable/despicable characters and so-true-it-hurts goodness.” –Flavorwire
“Díaz writes with subtle and sharp brilliance… He dazzles us with his language skills and his story-making talents, bringing us a narrative that is starkly vernacular and sophisticated, stylistically complex and direct… A spectacular read.” –Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"[This is How You Lose Her] has maturity in content, if not in ethical behavior… Díaz’s ability to be both conversational and formal, eloquent and plainspoken, to say brilliant things Trojan-horsed in slang and self-deprecation, has a way of making you put your guard completely down and be effected in surprising and powerful ways." –The Rumpus
“As tales of relationship redemption go, each of the nine relatable short stories in Junot Díaz's consummate collection This Is How You Lose Her triumphs… Through interrogative second-person narration and colloquial language peppered with Spanish, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author authentically captures Junior's cultural and emotional dualities.” –Metro
“Searing, sometimes hilarious, and always disarming… Readers will remember why everyone wants to write like Díaz, bring him home, or both. Raw and honest, these stories pulsate with raspy ghetto hip-hop and the subtler yet more vital echo of the human heart.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Díaz’s standout fiction remains pinpoint, sinuous, gutsy, and imaginative… Each taut tale of unrequited and betrayed love and family crises is electric with passionate observations and off-the-charts emotional and social intelligence… Fast-paced, unflinching, complexly funny, street-talking tough, perfectly made, and deeply sensitive, Díaz’s gripping stories unveil lives shadowed by prejudice and poverty and bereft of reliable love and trust. These are precarious, unappreciated, precious lives in which intimacy is a lost art, masculinity a parody, and kindness, reason, and hope struggle to survive like seedlings in a war zone.” –Booklist (starred review)
“Díaz’s third book is as stunning as its predecessors. These stories are hard and sad, but in Díaz’s hands they also crackle.” –Library Journal (starred review)
“Magnificent… an exuberant rendering of the driving rhythms and juicy Spanglish vocabulary of immigrant speech… sharply observed and morally challenging.” –Kirkus
“A beautifully stirring look at ruined relationships and lost love—and a more than worthy follow-up to [Díaz’s] 2007 Pulitzer winner, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” –Bookpage
"In This Is How You Lose Her, Díaz writes with subtlety and grace, once again demonstrating his remarkable facility for developing fully-realized and authentic characters with an economical rawness... Díaz skillfully portrays his protagonist so vividly, and with so much apparent honesty, that Yunior’s voice comes across with an immediacy that never once feels inauthentic." –California Literary Review
"Díaz continues to dazzle with his dynamite, street-bruised wit. The bass line of this collection is a thumpingly raw and sexual foray into lives that claw against poverty and racism. It is a wild rhythm that makes more vivid the collection’s heart-busted steadiness." –Dallas Morning News
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Top Customer Reviews
It's always an encouraging sign when someone you admire begins something by quoting someone else you very much admire. In this case, the book's epigraph is from the Sandra Cisneros poem, "One Last Poem for Richard." But even better, This Is How You Lose Her opens with one of my favorite short stories, "The Sun, The Moon, The Stars," which was originally published in The New Yorker in 1999. It was written well before readers got to know Yunior in Oscar Wao, but in the story we can already see the effects of his lying and cheating as he tries in vain to earn back his girlfriend's trust.
I had already read a few of the stories in this collection, but reading them all at once and seeing how they fit together was a wholly different experience. One of the most striking things about it was getting to see the way that Yunior's views and his interactions with women were shaped by (and, at times, in response to) his older brother's womanizing ways. In Drown, we got to see a little bit of what Yunior was exposed to as a child; he bore witness to his father's philandering. With his father largely out of the picture in This Is How You Lose Her, it is now Rafa who sets the example for Yunior. While Yunior will never become the abusive person his brother is -- he's often shocked by the cruel ways Rafa treats his girlfriends -- his life experiences, personal traumas, and cultural pressures all have an impact on the way he will eventually begin to treat women.
Then there's the added layer of a cancer story: Rafa fights a losing battle with cancer during some of Yunior's most formative years, but instead of bringing the brothers closer, Rafa shuts everyone out; the loss is something that Yunior reflects on as he gets older. However, the book's cancer story -- and I use "story" here collectively, as Rafa's illness is subtly weaved into several of the stories -- is unlike any other cancer story I've ever read. As with many other difficult topics Díaz has written about, Rafa's battle provides both life-changing and flat-out hilarious moments. There are elements of levity in Rafa's story that I just can't see being told by anyone other than Díaz.
The story's true allure comes from its multiple layers, subtly pulling from both Drown and Oscar Wao in ways that made me want to immediately go back and reread all three of Díaz's books in a row. That last story, "The Cheater's Guide to Love," shows Yunior years down the road. Rocked hard after being (rightfully) dumped by his fiancee, he is finally learning the error of his womanizing ways. The pain of this heartbreak is brutal and sends him spiraling into depression, but it is this emotional rock-bottom that might finally offer Yunior a way out of the hole he's dug himself into.
Since most of the stories feature Yunior, the narrative as a whole is very male-centric. Only one of the stories, "Otravida, Ortravez," features a female point of view; this is also the only story that is not tied in with the others. Still, to dismiss Yunior's crassness and boneheaded machismo would also dismiss the very human portrait that Díaz has created. More importantly, it would dismiss the nuanced portrayal of the outside factors -- culture, sexism, marginalization -- that feed into Yunior's many faults. Ultimately, the book shows that Yunior's way just isn't going to work. It's not sustainable.
Finally, a note on language. Because I saw so much nonsense regarding the Spanglish in Oscar Wao and have already begun seeing nonsense regarding the Spanglish in This Is How You Lose Her, I want to end not with a quote from the book, but with a quote from Gloria Anzaldúa's "Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza":
"So, if you really want to hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity -- I am my language...Until I am free to write bilingually and to switch codes without always having to translate, while I still have to speak English or Spanish when I would rather speak Spanglish, and as long as I have to accommodate the English speakers rather than having them accommodate me, my tongue will be illegitimate."
Remember that, because Díaz's playfulness with language is not only legitimate, it's vivid and marvelous. And it's pure Junot.
Hindsight- I would have read the other two books that introduced the main character Yunior to us. I think I would have better understood him. This book reads like a number of short stories which all are linked to the central character, Yunior. Apparently these stories were all published individually over a long period of time.
The first time I picked up the book, I could not get into it. I had a hard time with the way it was written. But as soon as I could hear Yunior's voice-- for a while it was the voice of a punk kid--then a depressed adult--still rough around the edges, I felt it. It flowed much better. And I really got lost In each story.
I enjoyed reading the intertwining of the relationships between Yunior, his mom, his brother and with himself--and the women. He has some insight into the reason for his womanizing ways but can't help himself. I couldn't help but feel sorry for him when he lost the love of his life-- it was his own doing but the depression that followed the loss was deep and long.
My favorite line-- the half life of love is forever.
A good book--definitely worth the read and it would be a fun book to discuss with friends n
I was intorduced to Mr. Diaz by way of Oscar Wao, another fantastic book, which led me to this title and his short stories. Mr. Diaz's theme is always his roots as an immigrant from The Dominican Republic growing up in Brooklyn and other "tougher" areas of New York. He doesn't sugar coat his words nor does he pull his punches. He recounts lives with such potential being lost to the streets and vaporized. It's a sad environment to grow up in but it shaped him into who he is and his ability to write it all down for us.
This is a short book with each story spanning 20 - 25 pages. As you read you'll feel the clarity and, in some cases, healing come through the words. Fantastic stuff.
Summary: Another gem from Mr. Diaz. Straight forward, no holds barred story telling. Lots of profanity (a problem for some) as that's his natural environoment. Spend the money and enjoy the escape.
Junior's relationships with the women in his life is a giant billboard for how people get trapped in the grooves and struggle to change in spite of their desire to do so. There's also an element of the external witness who sees Yunior's train coming vs. the internal Yunior who wanders along looking only at the tracks. He's always surprised each time he gets hit.
I really loved reading this book. There are some really funny laugh out loud moments and quite a lot of times I was sucking air through my teeth hoping for a different outcome and knowing it wouldn't change.
The book is also beautifully crafted with sharp, sharp descriptive and beautiful images of the world Yunior inhabits. I especially loved the descriptions of the women in Yuniors' life but all of the other characters, in particular his brother, are alive with depth.
I struggled with the Spanish along the way and ended up using google translate on my phone to read my iPad which worked well. Understanding the Spanish added a lot so I recommend taking the time to do that.
I'm looking forward to reading more Junot Diaz. Thank you as always to my friend for the recommendation. <3