The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

the-brief-wondrous-life-of-oscar-waoThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the highly acclaimed multiple-award winner, is incredibly intricate under the surface of its seemingly playful tone. By exploring the immigration of Oscar’s family, Diaz interweaves the themes of racial identity, Dominican male stereotypes, the pride as well as price of being oneself, fate and curses, the nasty legacy that Trujillo left in Dominican Republic, love, home, freedom, and ultimately what it means to be American.

I was particularly interested in the use of language in this book. Boy, Diaz does not shy away from obscenities. Other than the change of narrators in each chapter, there’s also a fairly intimidating amount of Spanish throughout. Diaz is witty and humorous. I had some good laughs. Beyond his writing style lie some serious questions that people often seek answers to. It’s a book that makes you chuckle, tear up, and ponder at the same time. It’s so close to real life that it’s comical and tragic at the same time. It’s one of my favorite recent reads!

“There was the initial euphoria of finding himself alone at college, free of everything, completely on his fucking own, and with it an optimism that here among these thousands of young people he would find someone like him. That, alas, didn’t happen. The white kids looked at his black skin and his afro and treated him with inhuman cheeriness. The kids of color, upon hearing him speak and seeing him move his body, shook their heads. You’re not Dominican.”

Oscar’s life was a continual struggle of fitting in, seeking love, finding and losing himself. As an overweight and extremely nerdy Dominican male, Oscar never met others’ expectations and was made fun of his entire life. He fell in love again and again but only to be slapped awake every time. He couldn’t find anyone to understand him, not that he really understood himself either. Doesn’t he sound astoundingly unlucky?

The white kids judged him by his skin color, and the Dominican males saw his nerdiness and blocked him from their clan. What’s Oscar’s identity? He was a little bit of everything but not entirely anything. His final letter brought tears to my eyes. He was a boy who had high hopes for life but never found a place where he belonged and could call home. Continue reading

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The Goldfinch

the-goldfinchThe Goldfinch has been on my reading list ever since it won this year’s Pulitzer Prize. It tells an intriguing story of a young boy, Theo, whose life was turned upside down by a tragic accident and, as a result, taken a sharp turn into the criminal underworld. The storyline is elaborate and engaging. You think you know what to expect but will most certainly be surprised as the plot unfolds. I especially enjoyed the first half of the book. It paints a vivid picture of a young boy, forced to grow up with little guidance and love, squandering away his time recklessly yet taking on life fearlessly. It’s a complicated story about love and hate, challenging and bowing down to fate, reality and dreams.

All the characters have distinct personalities. Theo, his dad, Xandra, Boris, Pippa, Hobie—they are people that would never meet had fate not crossed and intertwined their paths. I think the interaction between Boris and Theo is the most brilliant bit of the book. Theo was a good but sometimes mopey boy. Boris was ridiculous yet full of possibilities. These two got along incredibly well despite disagreeing on everything. Their encounter, separation and reunion make up the backbone of the book. Maybe my expectations were too high, but the Goldfinch didn’t’ impress me greatly. Although overall it was a good read that I would recommend!

“You could study the connections for years and never work it out—it was all about things coming together, things falling apart, time warp, my mother standing out in front of the museum when time flickered and the light went funny, uncertainties hovering on the edge of a vast brightness. The stray chance that might, or might not, change everything.”

Theo’s whole life has been thrown left and right unexpectedly by chances. Looking back, Theo sees his life connected by random dots that he never would’ve thought. Had the meeting with his teachers not been scheduled on a different day, or Pippa not happened to be in the same exhibit hall with him, or his dad got the funds to pay Mr. Silver in Vegas…Theo’s life would’ve been completely different. Like everyone else, Theo tries to cope with life with his own tactics etc. But it’s the stray chances that lead his life to drastic directions.

People like to think that the future can be planned. But it’s things, often those out of our control, coming together that paint the whole picture. No one can go down a single path in life not affected by anything else. All paths are crossed and you never know where life will take you next. On the bright side, this uncertainty is also the beauty of life. Continue reading