The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao Book Review

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was published in 2007 by the Dominican American writer Junot Diaz. It follows his successful short story collection, Drown, published in 1996.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Book Review

It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008 and the National Book Critics Circle Award. 

In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, reviewing it, and revealing what we thought of it altogether.

We’ll also inform you a little about Junot Diaz, the novel’s author, and his work’s themes.

A Summary Of The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao

Oscar is a sweet, overweight Dominican American nerd who dreams of finding love. He lives in New Jersey with his mother and sister and dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien.

However, his greatest dream is to find love. Unfortunately, it’s not likely to happen, thanks to the family curse.

The Fuku has haunted his family for generations, so many are doomed to prison, torture, tragedy, and ill-fated love. While Oscar still awaits his first kiss, he discovers he’s the curse’s most recent victim.

In this novel, we learn more about Oscar’s tumultuous life and the curse that has impacted his family for generations. Follow Oscar, his mother, and his sister as they are all affected by the Fuku. 

The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao Review

When Diaz released his first short story collection in 1996, it was praised for the mixture of English, Spanish, slang, and street talk.

It was filled with harsh tales about the life of Dominican American immigrants, and it was only a precursor to The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

People waited for Diaz’s novel for years, but it took him almost a decade to write it as Oscar wants to become the next J.R.R.

Tolkien but feels like he can’t due to his family curse. Likewise, the narrator, Yunior, who is Diaz’s alter-ego, is also a struggling writer who tells the story of Oscar, his disastrous love life, and his passion for science fiction and comics.

A complex narrative consists of side stories and flashbacks, including footnotes explaining the partisan history of the Dominican Republic.

Not only does this story focus on Oscar, but it focuses on his family. Much like Philip Roth and Thomas Mann (If you like his works, definitely check out The Magic Mountain), Junot Diaz focuses on a multigenerational tale that comes to the fore. 

While the plot structure may be arcane, the language is both punchy and direct. Each paragraph includes a mixture of Spanish and Spanglish, with a kind of macho bravado that you would expect from any street corner.

While Diaz uses the F-word and N-word with a disturbing frequency, it gives their conversations a raw feeling to them.

Diaz uses a daring mixture of elements to tell the story of the Third World immigrant novel, sprinkling with pop culture references from sci-fi and comics.

While he occasionally throws in some high-culture references, such as the mispronunciation of Oscar Wilde to become Oscar Wao. By combining and clashing these elements, we find a quirky yet fun flow to this book.

What’s The Verdict?

Truthfully, we think that Diaz has succeeded on several levels as he wrote this book. This is more than a simple story about Oscar Wao, but a story about a family.

It encompasses the history of a country and the Dominican American immigrant experience that teaches us a more real experience than school does.

While we waited a long time for this novel, we meet Yunior again in Diaz’s 2012 book: This Is How You Lose Her. However, we don’t know when this series will have another sequel. 

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Book Review

Themes In The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao

There are a number of themes and motifs that appear in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. One of the most significant themes in the novel is the power of your appearance.

Oscar’s mother, Beli, goes through major physical and psychological changes in her adolescence, and she sees this as an opportunity to get whatever she wants. 

It is explained that the power of appearance is essential to understanding the Trujillo era that affected the de Leon family.

Oscar’s grandfather refused to bring his daughter to Trujillo’s events, and when he didn’t bring her with him, it essentially became a form of treason due to Trujillo’s dictatorship. 

Diaz discusses the power of appearance often; however, he also discusses the reexamination of masculinity. Yunior and Oscar are two foils who embrace different types of masculinity.

Yunior is a Don Juan who appears as the definition of Dominican hypermasculinity, while Oscar is the polar opposite. Despite this, they have opposite values, yet, they both share similarities and become friends.

Each of them has traits the other admires. Yunior respects the way Oscar can become friends with women and his writing style.

Oscar teaches him more about how to open up to others, and his influence encourages Yunior to settle down and get married, allowing him to develop a healthier form of masculinity. 

Both the Cabrals and de Leons have relationships that are marred with violence, and it is a symbol of the colonialism and dictators that have affected them.

Fuku is known as a curse, while zafa is the only way to prevent disasters that will happen. In a way, Oscar was the zafa of Yunior’s fuku, as he was able to teach him to open himself up intimately to others.

However, the fuku is also linked to the violence and colonialism they have faced.

In this case, the hope for Yunior appears to be in the future in Lola’s daughter, as she is born in the United States and does not have the same chains binding her to the Dominican Republic. It is about learning about the past but healing from it. 

Two particular motifs continue to appear throughout the novel. Mongooses are seen as guardians of the de Leon family, and they were imported to the Dominican Republic to protect the sugar cane fields from rat infestations.

Like the de Leons, they are immigrants and were transplanted against their will; in the same way, Oscar’s family was forced from the Dominican Republic.

The second motif is the sugar cane field itself. All scenes of physical violence directed at Beli and Oscar take place in a sugar cane field, and it was through colonialism that sugar became the source of the plantation economy for the wealth of white people.

About Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz is a Dominican-American writer who was born in 1968. He was born in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic before immigrating to New Jersey with his family at the age of six.

He attended Rutgers University, where he graduated and created the character of Yunior, who would debut in his 1996 short story collection, Drown.

Drown was an incredibly successful short story collection, and he won the New Voices Award for both Ysrael and Fiesta in 1980, which would be included in the Best American Short Stories of 1996 and 1997.

Fans of Diaz had to wait ten years for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao to be released in 2007. The novel was met with huge success, winning him the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and many more.

Time and New York Magazine selected it as the best novel of 2007 and was also chosen by several smaller publications.

After the success of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, more people returned to his earlier work which received a new revival. In 2010, he was recognized for encouraging other writers and was given the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award.

Eventually, in 2012, he released a collection of short stories called This Is How You Lose Her. In this collection, Diaz focuses on the relationships Yunior and his family have with the women in their lives and their struggles with fidelity.

It became a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Since then, he has only written one other book, Islandborn, a children’s book that follows an Afro-Latina girl called Lola who takes a journey to collect memories of her country of origin in the Dominican Republic. 

While he has dabbled in science fiction, Diaz has never completed a science fiction novel. However, his legacy for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao remains strong, as it was voted the best novel of the 21st century to date in 2015.

Final Thoughts

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is undoubtedly Junot Diaz’s most famous work, and it’s understandable why.

While it has been some time since he wrote his last novel, we can only hope he will write another in the world of Yunior and Oscar soon.

Sophie Andrea