: “The Brief Wondrous Life of Wao” follows an unlikely Dominican-American hero and
several generations of his family, from the horror of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic to life in the U.S.
English Professor and author Junot Diaz stirs up a vibrant mix of cultures and languages, roaming from a longstanding “Fuku” family curse of the Dominican Republic to the Klingon language from Star Trek.
In this video report Diaz discusses his influences and winning the Pulitzer Prize and
reads an excerpt from his novel.
“There’s something really cool about, you know, a Dominican kid, a writer of color, a writer of African descent, immigrant kid from a nowhere place in New Jersey, spent 11 years writing a book, and that anybody wanted to read it, and that anybody wanted to give it an award, — I’m like, that’s great personally, but it’s also kind of hopeful for other people. I’m like, ‘Let me tell you something: If I can do this, they certainly can do it.’ ” - Junot Diaz
“If you think about it, a curse is just a story that you may or not inherit. I mean, you can believe your family is cursed or you can say it’s not, but it’s literally just a story…” - Junot Diaz
Where is the Dominican Republic? What do you know about it? Name “underdog” characters who are the heroes or heroines of a novel, movie, or TV show ? What is appealing about an “underdog”? How are immigrants portrayed in books you have read? What is a stereotype? Why do many books, movies, etc use stereotypes? What makes a character a stereotype? What have you read recently that either had a stereotype or purposefully avoided stereotypes?
What did you find interesting about this interview? Does the interview make you want to read Diaz’s book? Why or why not? Do a web search on the Dominican Republic. Make a list of interesting facts about the Dominican Republic. Is there a Dominican Republic immigrant community in your town or city? Why do you think it took Diaz 11 years to write this novel? How long do think it will take for his next one? Do you think novelists choose to write stories, or do they have to write? Why do you think people write novels? Is it something you want to do? If you want to write fiction, what kind of education should you pursue, what kind of experiences outside of school?
What does Diaz mean by “the universal always springs from the particular?”
Have you ever felt you have been affected by a Fuku (family curse)? What evidence do you have? Do other family members agree or disagree with you?
NewsHour Transcript: Novelist Junot Diaz Weaves Cultures and Languages
PBS: Diaz Reading ‘Oscar Wao’ Excerpt
NPR: Review and novel excerpt
The New Yorker ‘Oscar Wao’ Excerpt Golden Age
NY Times Book Review: Dreaming in Spangish
Time Magazine, Top 10 Fiction Books 2007
JunotDiaz.com Assorted reviews