Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Junot Diaz and Dave Eggers, I swoon.

When I was 22 living in Los Angeles, working for an a-hole and regularly receiving paychecks that would bounce, my best friend and lifeline at the time gave me a copy of one of his favorite books in recent memory. That book was Drown by the relatively unknown and relatively young Junot Díaz. As his debut, it was a haunting collection of short stories about a Dominican family, its generational struggles in the Dominican Republic and New Jersey, and the "casual cruelty, devastating ambivalence, and knowing humor of lives circumscribed by poverty and uncertainty" (Amazon.com Book Review). That book sat with me and haunted me, but still gave me hope. And for seven years (what took you so long Junot?), I waited for the follow up. Luckily I was not disappointed.

As soon as I found out that Díaz had written another book, I jumped to buy it. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was released in 2007 and eventually received the Pulitzer Prize. This is probably one of the best books I have read in the past 10 years. I wish I could do it any sense of justice, but I think the New York Times did it better with their book review: "It is funny, street-smart and keenly observed, and it unfolds from a comic portrait of a second-generation Dominican geek into a harrowing meditation on public and private history and the burdens of familial history." I've probably recommended this book to everyone I know. And my reward...getting to see Junot Díaz speak and getting to watch a play inspired by Oscar Wao...on the same day!

This Saturday, I'm going with some fabulous ladies to two fabulous literary events. First, we are going to Glide Memorial Church to watch a lecture by Junot Díaz and Dave Eggers (yes, Eggers of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius fame, but also author of another one of my recent favorites, What is the What). Next, we will head to Intersection of the Arts to watch the Oscar Wao inspired play Fukú Americanus, adapted by Sean San José and co-directed with the Living Word's Marc Bamuthi Joséph.

I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to interact with an author, let alone two, that I admired (probably because most I enjoy are dead). And I am so excited to see Oscar personified. This should be a marvelous day! Then, the Pride parade is Sunday. Can the weekend get here already?

Bottom line: if you are looking for something to read, please pick up either Drown, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao or What is the What. I promise you won't be disappointed.

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