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Drown
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About the Author

Junot Diaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist; and a debut picture book, Islandborn. He is the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award. A graduate of Rutgers College, Diaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Reviews

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.

Praise for DROWN:

"Remarkable."
--Entertainment Weekly "Powerful and revelatory."
--Houston Chronicle "There have been several noteworthy literary debuts this year, but Diaz deserves to be singled out for the distinctiveness and caliber of his voice, and for his ability to sum up a range of cultural and cross-cultural experiences in a few sharp images.... The motifs--the father absent and indifferent to the family, his infidelities and bullying while they're united, the shabby disrepair of northern New Jersey--resonate from story to story and give Drown its cohesion and weight.... These 10 finely achieved short stories reveal a writer who will still have something to say after he has used up his own youthful experiences and heartaches."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer "Talent this big will always make noise.... [The ten stories in Drown] vividly evoke Diaz's hardscrabble youth in the Dominican Republic and New Jersey, where 'our community was separated from all the other communities by a six-lane highway and the dump.' Diaz has the dispassionate eye of a journalist and the tongue of a poet..."
--Newsweek "This stunning collection of stories is an unsentimental glimpse at life among immigrants from the Dominican Republic--and another front-line report on the ambivalent promise of the American Dream. Diaz is writing about more than physical dislocation. There is a price for leaving culture and homeland behind...In this cubistic telling, life is marked by relentless machismo, flashes of violence and severe tests of faith from loved ones. The characters are weighted down by the harshness of their circumstances, yet Diaz gives his young narrators a wry sense of humor."
--San Francisco Chronicle "Graceful and raw and painful and smart...His prose is sensible poetry that moves like an interesting conversation...The pages turn and all of a sudden you're done and you want more."
--The Boston Globe "A stunning and kinetic first collection of short stories.... Diaz has the ear of a poet (a rarity among fiction writers), and many of his stories are piloted by a compelling and often fiercely observed first-person narration. Diaz's precise language drives the accumulation of particular concrete sensory details to the universals of broader, nuanced experience. Comparisons to writers like Sandra Cisneros or Jess Mowry or even Edwidge Danticat (all of whom are at the top of my list) are probably inevitable, but Diaz distinguishes himself thoroughly in this book.... In an era of the glib, hip 'I've-seen-it-all-nothing-shocks-me-anymore' narrator, Diaz doesn't back away from sentiment. Though he is never mawkish, his stories are richly textured in feeling...Diaz is a life-smart, savvy writer who, because he's honest and often funny, very gently breaks your heart."
--Hungry Mind Review "New Jersey and the Dominican Republic are thousands of miles apart, but in Junot Diaz's seductive collection of short stories, they seem to blend into each other as effortlessly as Diaz weaves the words that bring to life the recurring characters that populate both places.... In a sense, this book is about that old and much misunderstood Latino demon, machismo, which only recently is being seen as something not innate to Latino males, but rather as the result of their often futile attempts to reconcile their dual roles as men (in the eyes of their families) and as mere boys (in the eyes of the outside world).... There's a lot of artistry in this book, and where there is art, there is always hope."
--Austin American-Statesman "Remarkable...His style is succinct and unadorned, yet the effect is lush and vivid, and after a few lines you are there with him, living in his documentary, his narration running through your head almost like your own thoughts.... Vignettes...observed with depth and tenderness but most of all with a simple honesty that rings as clear and true as a wind chime."
--The Dallas Morning News "Mesmerizingly honest, heart-breaking and full of promise...Tales of life among the excluded classes of the diaspora, they tread fearlessly where lesser writers gush and politicize--which is exactly their political and aesthetic power."
--Si Magazine "Junot Diaz's stories are as vibrant, tough, unexotic, and beautiful as their settings--Santo Domingo, Dominican Nueva York, the immigrant neighborhoods of industrial New Jersey with their gorgeously polluted skyscapes. Places and voices new to our literature yet classically American: coming-of-age stories full of wild humor, intelligence, rage, and piercing tenderness. And this is just the beginning. Diaz is going to be a giant of American prose."
--Francisco Goldman

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