Saturday, February 9, 2013

This is How You Lose her by Junot Diaz


This book has been all over the place from NPR to the book podcasts that I listened to. In this book, we are introduced to Yunior again - Yunior and his family have emigrated from the Dominican Republic and have settled in the northeast - New Jersey is the setting for many of those tales. We learn that he grew up in a poor immigrant community there. Yunior's life with his family is the focus of his most recent collection of stories - that is what this book is - a collection of short stories, the common thread of which is Yunioor's life and his interactions with his family. Yunior's voice also holds the stories together because they are all told from his perspective and it is a really unique and interesting perspective.

I particularly like the first story entitled "The Sun, the Moon and the Stars," a story in which Yunior brings his girlfriend, with whom he has had a pretty serious romantic relationship, to the Dominican Republic for a vacation. They visit both the "tourist" part of the island and the "real" part of the island, where Yunior's family used to live. I loved this line in particular. "A goddamn fortress, walled away from everybody else,” with “beaches so white they ache to be trampled." Diaz was describing the resort that he ends up having to take his girlfriend to because she seemingly can't handle being on the other parts of the island. This is highlighted when Yunior states that he feels sequestered there and surrounded by "by “Garcías and Colóns” who “come to relax after a long month of oppressing the masses,” and the “melanin deficient Eurofucks” who look like “budget Foucaults … too many of them in the company of a dark-assed Dominican girl.”

I loved that story, and most of Diaz's other stories, because not only did I get a satisfying narrative and development of character development, but that issues of class were being addressed as well not by an in your face "look at awful these people are" but by a description of what Yunior was seeing and smelling and experiencing. I loved being able to use my senses to realize those experiences. I liked how Diaz also connected the past and present through Yunior's experiences - I could see him becoming the person that he was by using his past and the present in conjunction to transform himself into a person that he wanted to become.

The title of the collection also provides some insight. Violence in many forms is used by the characters to get power. Yunior never really uses physical violence against his girlfriends; however he seems to use emotional violence an awful lot. For instance, he cheats on his girlfriends quite often. He lies and isn't ashamed of it or necessarily even sorry that he's cheated. And by doing this, he ends up losing every single girlfriend that he manages to land over the course of these stories. He is very demeaning towards women as well using words like "slut" and "whore" to describe them. You can see that he is perpetuating the views of women that his father and older brother have and it's so clear that this is where he learned that mindset.Even with that, I truly enjoyed reading these stories because the characters are absolutely fascinating.

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