The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

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Specs on The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by POC Writer Junot Diaz 

  • 335 pages
  • Published by the Penguin Group
  • Fiction, novel

Summary of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by POC Writer Junot Diaz 

The Cabral family of the Dominican Republic lives in New Jersey. Oscar is a loquacious and precocious sci-fi nerd who loves to write. And he’s the only Dominican who isn’t a masculine, smooth-talking lady-killer. He can’t get a girlfriend to save his life. His shame is his virginity.

We follow Oscar, his strong-headed older sister, his bodacious mother, and his friends through several years, as they struggle to deal with troubles, tragedies, growth spurts, and the endless complicated search for love.

Before You Read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by POC Writer Junot Diaz 

  • The Dominican Republic

For a brief history on the DR, please refer to my post on Junot Diaz.

  • DO NOT SKIP the footnotes. They’re half the fun in reading Oscar Wao. Diaz writes extensive explanations (with personal commentary) for culture specific references.
  • Brush up on your Spanish. (Especially your gutter Spanish. Yeah, all those curse words you learned in high school.)

Or, use this abbreviated guide while you read.

Disclaimer: I might have added some just for kicks. Some of these words may not be used in the book at all, as I did not keep track while reading. (Admittedly, my research took a strange turn.)

Disclaimer II: In real life, use sparingly. Please.

Spanish Curse Words English Translation Spanish Curse Words English Translation
bochinche machotes macho men
cabrón goat, bastard maldito damn
capullo asshole, prick maricón fagot, pussy
cuero leather, naked mierda shit
culo ass mujeres women
hijo de perra son of a bitch monita monkey
joder to fuck parió bastard
lame botas ass kisser pendejo pubic hair, asshole
puta bitch, whore pechonalidad An amalgamate of “pecho” (chest) and “personalidad” (personality)
puta madre motherfucker tetúa large-chested woman
puto fucking toto vagina, pussy

For a more extensive list on Spanish terms used in the novel, please visit a blog post by Aliza Hausman.

Thoughts on The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by POC Writer Junot Diaz 

I am convinced that Junot Diaz is a genius. His writing is an electric blend of comedy, tragedy, poetry and painting. The twists are sharp and hard, making this piece of work hard to dismiss. (I can only describe them as “hip movements.”)Every page has entertained me, provoked me and encouraged me to think further and deeper than I expected.

There are some male writers who truly are misogynistic, and write about female characters with such objectivity, that it’s impossible to read. While Diaz does write extensively about sex, love and violence, and the female characters are sexual, there’s a humanness to them that protects them from judgment. He’s able to write about sexy topics without being sexist. (Though many people seem to disagree.)

This book reminded me a lot of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And as acclaimed as that book was, for one reason or another, I couldn’t get through it. But I blazed through Oscar Wao, and now I’m considering taking another jab at Solitude. (Shall we call Oscar Wao a gateway drug?)

The Atlantic ran an interview on him for his latest book, This is How You Lose Her, on just that topic. Read here.

Who won’t like this book?

People with no sense of humor.

Interviews with Junot Diaz


The Millions

Other Reviews on The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by POC Writer Junot Diaz 

The New York Times

The Guardian


To read an excerpt published by The New Yorker, click here.


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