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Drown is the first book by Junot Diaz, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Junot Diaz was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He is a graduate of Rutgers University and received his Master of Fine Arts Degree from Cornell University. His collection of short stories, Drown, was described as 'a dazzlingly talented first book' by Hermione Lee in the Independent on Sunday. His first novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He teaches creative writing at MIT (Massachussetts Institute of Technology).
The 10 tales in this intense debut collection plunge us into the emotional lives of people redefining their American identity. Narrated by adolescent Dominican males living in the struggling communities of the Dominican Republic, New York and New Jersey, these stories chronicle their outwardly cool but inwardly anguished attempts to recreate themselves in the midst of eroding family structures and their own burgeoning sexuality. The best pieces, such as "Aguantando'' (to endure), "Negocios,'' "Edison, NJ'' and the title story, portray young people waiting for transformation, waiting to belong. Their worlds generally consist of absent fathers, silent mothers and friends of questionable principles and morals. Diaz's restrained prose reveals their hopes only by implication. It's a style suited to these characters, who long for love but display little affection toward each other. Still, the author's compassion glides just below the surface, occasionally emerging in poetic passages of controlled lyricism, lending these stories a lasting resonance. BOMC and QPB alternates; foreign rights sold in Holland, Norway, Sweden, the U.K., Spain, France and Germany. (Sept.) FYI: Diaz was the only writer chosen by Newsweek as one of the 10 "New Faces of 1996." Drown is a nominee for the 1997 QPB "New Voices'' award. "Ysrael'' will be included in Best American Short Stories 1996 and "Edison, NJ" will appear in the summer 1996 issue of the Paris Review. Riverhead will publish Diaz's novel, The Cheater's Guide to Love, in 1997.
Diaz has received much pre-publication praise and publicity for this, his first collection, of short stories. Set in his native Dominican Republic or in the Dominican neighborhoods of New Jersey, these stories focus on the carnal aspect of human nature. They graphically depict lives defined by poverty and the cynicism and hardness that can develop from it; the complex nature of relationships, both among peers and within families; and the desperation of those who are enslaved by the American drug culture. Diaz's writing is at times somewhat strained, but he provides convincing portraits of characters attempting to cope with lives which provide them with few advantages and much pain. Recommended for academic libraries.‘Rebecca Stuhr-Rommereim, Grinnell Coll. Libs., Ia.