Welcome to the discussion page for our reading of The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. Scroll down to find out more about the editors you'll be hearing from, and watch our video discussions, read blogs, and discuss the book with other readers.
Andrew Losowsky, Books Editor. I'm British, so anything you think I've spelled wrong, is actually just spelled older. I look for stories to take my brain into new spaces, and I'll be particularly discussing the facts as we think we know them, and the clues I think we're being given by the story. I'll be choosing a few facts to use as jumping-off points for discussions.
Zoë Triska, Associate Books Editor. I was a Literature major so I can't help analyzing every single thing (from the syntax and language to metaphors, similes, you name it). I admit that I'm one of those people who Googles phrases, places, names every couple of pages when I'm reading. There are constantly things that stump me, though so I'd love to hear your thoughts on the significance of words, places, events that take place in the book.
Madeleine Crum, Assistant Books Editor. I like looking at language particularities, but in case you think that's a snooze (you wouldn't be alone), I'm also interested in reading what critics say about books and whether their reviews are spot on or way off.
Annemarie Dooling, Community Editor. Locations and descriptions speak to me the same way characters do. I love dissecting story details. If you read the same books over and over again the same way you visit an out-of-town friend, we're going to get along just fine.
Here's our reading schedule:
August 29: Pages 1-50
September 5: 51-113
September 12: 114-165
September 19: 166-210
September 26: 211-261
October 3: 262-335
Join us at 4pm EST for our discussion of the ending of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz's MacArthur genius grant award, and a final chance to vote for the next book!
Join our discussion at 4pm EST!
I'll be posting it right in this exact spot, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. For an idea of what you'd like to say or ask, check out the conversation happening below in the comments concerning the roles of Dominicans in love and society, the history of the DR, and Diaz's fantastic mix of slang/prose/notes to tell a story within a story. What's your favorite theme of the book so far?
Thanks for dealing with our technical issues this week, everyone. You can watch us here:
|@ HuffPostBooks : If you've been reading Oscar Wao with us and want to join our next live discussion, message us on Twitter! #HPBookClub|
"Any guy gets the full dose of misogyny of your culture. A blind spot in the imagination vis-à-vis women. And I really believe this in my heart: What made it possible for me to be a writer was wrestling with that blind spot. My ability to see women with any clarity is the linchpin of my art." - Junot Díaz in Grantland
|@ TravelingAnna : For folks reading along with #hpbookclub who wanted more info on our last guest, she is @carolacain.|
What makes a strong woman?
This week we had a mini discussion with guest Carol Cain, a strong Dominican woman herself, who felt that some ethnicities of women use strength in different ways. Dominican women, she feels, use sex appeal, not force, to convince strong men to make moves for them, or to control them.
Looking at the loud, intelligent and free-spirited women in "Oscar Wao," that could be one assumption - Lola specifically comes to mind - but there's another, quiet strength there as well.
How would you define the strength of the women of "Oscar Wao?"
|@ JohnnyGolightly : "The half-life of love is forever." - Junot Diaz|
Tune in at 4pm ET.
Hey all! We'll be hopping on video tomorrow to discuss pages 114-165 and our best comments from below. What do you want to discuss? Leave an idea below and we'll pick our favorites.
"I grew up in a world, [a] very New Jersey, American, Dominican, immigrant, African-American, Latino world. And, you know, I went to school and it was basically the same. I went to college; it was basically the same, where largely I wasn't really encouraged to imagine women as fully human. I was in fact pretty much — by the larger culture, by the local culture, by people around me, by people on TV — encouraged to imagine women as something slightly inferior to men. And so I think that a lot of guys, part of our journey is wrestling with, coming to face, our limited imagina[tion] and growing in a way that allows us not only to imagine women as fully human, but to imagine the things that we do to women — that we often do blithely, without thinking, we just sort of shrug off — as actually deeply troubling and as hurting another human being. And this seems like the simplest thing. A lot of people are like, 'Really, that's like a huge leap of knowledge, of the imagination?' But for a lot of guys, that is."
|@ fatamo : “@PublishersWkly: Five questions for 'Oscar Wao' author Junot Diaz http://t.co/wsMpNVmZ” #HPBookClub|
|@ UkeJackson : Reading #JunotDiaz "Oscar Wao" with #hpbookclub. Love the voices and storytelling.|
Technical problems! Let's carry on here.
Community member Heather found this fantastic interview with Junot Diaz that digs into the background of Oscar and a few other questions we brought up in the weekly video chat.
Well, the fukú has been one of those Dominican concepts that have fascinated me for years. Our Island (and a lot of countries around it) has a long tradition of believing in curses. The fukú was different in that it was the one curse that explicitly implicated the historical trauma of our creation, as an area, a people. I mean, how crazy is that? A Dominican curse that seems to have its origins in the arrival of the European? In Columbus? Say his name aloud and bad shit will happen to you? For a writer like me—the fukú was a narrative dream come true. I’m not the only one: when the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtusenko visited Santo Domingo and learned about the fukú it inspired him to write a book-length poem called—surprise, surprise—FUKÚ.Read the interview here: http://bombsite.com/issues/101/articles/2948
And scroll down below to read Heather's take on it. Thanks for sharing, Heather!
Here are some of the themes we'll be discussing tomorrow. Comment below and tell us what you think about them, so we can share your comment on the video chat.
1. Heritage. How is Oscar's background reflected in our main characters in this stage of the story?
2. Worlds. Oscar is torn between many different worlds, namely his Dominican heritage and the world of cult fantasy. Are any others evident to you?
3. Oscar undergoes lessons in "manhood" by our macho narrator as the strongest voices in his life (as well as in the book) are female. What does this say about manhood in this book?
We'll also be looking at the locations of the book, the idea of heritage, how Oscar's family would have lived in the DR as well as in their New York nabe of Washington Heights, and how that heritage has influenced his life and ultimately death.
If you'd like another guide to help you decipher the pop culture and linguistic terms of the book, we found this page by way of community member Ryan Zee.
Or, you may prefer to stay away from reading guides and come up with your own thoughts. Whichever you decide, we'd love to hear your opinions on the languages and cult and niche worlds involved here.
Let us know below and our favorite comments will be featured in tomorrow's very first Google + hangout on this page.
I found this quick phrasing during a research read of a goodreads review and it stuck with me. There's something powerful and terrible and yet just out of reach about love and desire in both this book and Diaz' follow-up.
Be on the lookout for this theme as we topple through the first few chapters this week. We'll hold our very first google chat on Wednesday afternoon, and if you can't be here for it, you can catch it here later on in the day.
|@ fatamo : Inscription in #hpbookclub pick of the month (Junot Diaz) for @MsTumi! Excuse my chicken scratchy writing http://t.co/4DybWMsj|
One of our editors pointed out this fantastic blog post. It's a glossary of words you should know while you're reading Oscar Wao and it's very helpful.
A few favorites:
Azabaches: a fossilized form of wood that is black in color and is carved and polished into pieces of jewelry to protect against the evil eye
Ciguapas: mythological creature of Dominican folklore. They are commonly described as having human female form with brown or dark blue skin, backward facing feet, and very long manes of smooth, glossy hair that covers their otherwise naked bodies. They supposedly inhabit the high mountains of the Dominican Republic.
Carajito: the most common way a Dominican would refer to a child whose name he or she doesn't know
Pan de agua: bread of water
Have you read this Junot Diaz book yet? If not, what have you heard that is inspiring you to pick it up now?
Leave a comment below and we'll feature our favorites on the first video discussion next week.