The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz, Jonathan Davis

This is the long-awaited first novel from one of the most original and memorable writers working today.

Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fukú – the curse that has haunted the Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.

Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican–American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Diaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781415941942
Publisher: Random House, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/01/2007
Edition description: Unabridged

About the Author

Junot Diaz's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Best American Short Stories. His debut story collection, Drown, was a publishing sensation of unprecedented acclaim, became a national bestseller, won numerous awards, and is now a landmark of contemporary literature. He was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, and now lives in New York City and Boston, where he teaches at MIT.

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao 12-copy solid floor display 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 352 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This books is interesting in that it is fairly compelling, but definitely offbeat. As an English teacher, I find some of the slang and strange sentence structure slightly off-putting, but certainly not enough to put the book down. I find Latin American history/culture extremely fascinating, so the novel's take on the Trujillo Era is quite engaging. I would recommend it to a friend, but it is neither light nor easy reading,so better for a book club/somewhat serious read than escapist or beach reading...
PickledJarofBrain More than 1 year ago
Book Review: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz is definitely not an ordinary book. and not to be read lightheartedly. It is written in lively voices of the characters in mix of English and Spanish, jumping from time to time and characters to the other. It tells the story of the De Leon Family, consisting of the Single Mother, Belícia, and her children, Lola and Oscar. Belícia's story tells the tale of her youth, when she was so recklessly in love with men and the disaster the love brings to her. Lola's story consists of a growing woman trying to find her freedom within her rocky relationship with her mother. Oscar, the main boy, tries to find true romance with his heavy body and geeky tastes, and ends up meeting his own "happy" doom. A strong curse (or 'Fúku', as the family calls it) seems to follow this family from 1944~1995, and the characters struggle to survive and find their destiny within it. The book is not particularly an easy reading, for there are so many jumps. Time jumps almost randomly every chapter, and at this change, the narrator, place, and people flips back and forth. Also, the author provides an inside-out history of the Trujillo dictatorship in Dominican Republic in side notes, which deeply related with the story base. Violence and injustice is strong in the story, and you'll be taken back by the intensity of emotions. Despite the strong themes, there are still humor and romance (although sometimes politically wrong), and draws its readers into the true read-through oh humanness I recommend The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao to those who like a story with fast pace, and a mix of fiction with reality. Also, the book contains many aspects, from violence to humor, and is good to re-read. For those who does not like so much changes in plot from chapter to chapter, this book might not be as capturing to you. In overall, this book opened my eyes to a new type of literature with its direct 'street' language, talking about very possible events. I strongly recommend this book to be read smoothly and through the night, and hope that you experience the excitement in it too.
iluvvideo More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It tells the story of Oscar de Leon (nicknamed Oscar Wao in reference to Oscar Wilde). He sees himself as the antithesis of what a Dominican male should be. Overweight, bookish, SF movie watching, journal writing , and worst of all NO luck with the ladies. His story is told from several points of view (his own, his sister Lola, his friend Yunior, and other family members). They take us on a journey through Oscar's life, and also through the birth and reasons behind the family fuku (bad karma) that flows through every action and possible outcome, predetermining the worst outcome. You get a up close look at the Dominican Republic's history especially the era of the dictator Trujillo, a regime as oppressive as any dictator in history, that operated for over 40 years in obscurity to the outside world, but with devastating consequence to the people, including Oscar and his family. The characters are believable, neither glorified nor reviled, just trying to survive. They leave the Dominican and immigrate to Nuevo Yol in search of freedom and a better life. But what can be done with the ever present fuku? It seems you cannot escape! I found Oscar and his family's story fascinating. Each generations struggle to escape the repressive situation in which they live and struggle toward a better life. Oscar struggles to become a man and find love and happiness in his life. Will he succeed? Read and find out!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a hispanic female and I did understand the Spanish parts of the book but unfortunately that was really all I understood. At times the book was interesting but at other times it just dragged on. The history of the mother was way too long! At times I couldn't tell who was actually telling the story. I thought it was just me but after reading some other reviews I see that others had the same problems. I was really disappointed that this book didn't live up to all the hype surrounding it. Sorry, this was NOT my favorite book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr Diaz does a grate job in pairing historical events with it's fictional caracters and plots. His writing style is original, maybe one of the reasons he won a pulitzer. His other book Drown is also amazing. Can't wait for his next masterpiece.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are so many things I dislike about this book that's hard to know what to write. The internal voice of each character is pretty much just Diaz,  which makes the characters hard to connect with because they seem so empty. Oscar is supposed to be a nerd, yet doesn't think like one. He reads all these books, but never uses them as examples. The random, '70s, potty-mouth Spanish is also annoying and gives the characters a dirty, cheap feel to them. They have two languages, yet have limited vocabulary in both with the exception of Oscar randomly using a big word here and there, which at best seems forced. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The ending was terrible. Whatever the author had to say about life I didn't agree with.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like Junot Díaz's writing, though I found myself cringing at his vulgarity.. maybe his crudeness was for shock value? I don't know.. However, I did like the book (the plot was interesting), but if you are in high school, I recommend waiting till you're a little older to read it. (I'm a freshman and while I don't regret reading this book, I do wish I waited.)
KatStan More than 1 year ago
Diaz's distinctive style grows on you and entices you into a mindset that makes this an always-good and sometimes-great reading experience. Characters are exceptionally well-developed and memorable and the plot is propulsive and well-crafted. A couple of reading notes: (1) It helps to know Spanish (I don't, but looked up a lot of words and learned a few), but you can get by without it. (2) Nook readers should know is that there are many pages of endnotes (not footnotes) that are substantively enriching but not easy to read electronically. I discovered this after completing the main body and upon skimming the endnotes had several regrets for not having known historical facts, cultural features, or background details.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing!!!! he hit the nail with THIS book.coming from the same Dominican background I was taken back into oscars world!! And the history that my parents had to grow up in .... Love love this book...was very sad when I finished it lol
ShunziJong More than 1 year ago
I tried to like this book. Because I like the author. Junot is a masterful writer. But here he tells an interesting story that could have used some editing. He includes some unnecessary subplots that only take up time. The saying less is more would have been applicable here.
NWilson More than 1 year ago
Reading this book was like watching a soap opera. You can't ignore it but it didn't have enough substance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some may call me a typical geek but I really don't understand how a book like this gets the attention and praise of critics. Just seems that whenever it's a book about real life and people doing nothing that somehow we're supposed to come away with some deep meaning about life itself. When really the story of Oscar Wao seems to be one long drawn out reason of why suicide seems to be such a better option. And really if one were to want to read that then I say read Chuck Palahniuk. At least then he'll lay out those observations in front of you. And the fact that this book is called "The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" is really a cruel joke that borders upon sadism. Especially with how the main character just seems to go on suffering from beginning to end. That you're left with the big question "What was the point of that?"
thecatsmeowCC More than 1 year ago
I became a fan of Junot Diaz after I read Drown. I figured since I loved that book so much I should like this book too. WRONG. I can't get through it. I've tried twice to read the entire book but I can't through it. I don't know what it is about the book but I can't get into the story or characters...
Mara_New More than 1 year ago
This book is phenomenal. It gives a fantastic look into the lives of a series of diverse and quirky characters and brings a realism with it that is heartbreaking but inspiring. Excellent read!
jkny23 More than 1 year ago
First of all, about 15% of this book is written in Spanish. So unless you're fluent or you know someone to translate for you - be prepared. For a Pulitzer and National Book Award winner I expected something more than urban prose. No intelligence level needed for this read (the part that's in English, that is)! The footnotes that the author uses to give more detail to characters and historical timelines distract from the story. It's as if he couldn't figure out a way to blend them in and out of laziness he just left his original notes in there. Sorry but I don't get what the industry thinks is so great about this story. Maybe the critics gave this book a great review because it was such a fast, superficial read???
pagese More than 1 year ago
I'm still not sure what makes this book a literary genius. First off I dislike fiction stories that include footnotes. Although, I know they are there to state facts, I still found myself not reading them. There is an interesting history trapped in these pages. And that I did enjoy. I liked the story involving Oscar's heritage and the history of the Dominican. He's mother's story was particularly harrowing. But, the story of Oscar himself bordered on vulgar at times. I felt like it was 340 pages of a man's desire to have sex for the first time. I finished it (and it took me longer than most books this size do), but I don't feel I learned anything from it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a bit tiring. It doesn't really focus on Oscar (like I expected)but the whole "unlucky" Wao family history. Junot Diaz writes very well and is very talented with the writing but the story doesn't really stand out for me. However, it was interesting with the whole Dominican Rep. history. The middle part was boring, it dragged on, and I had to force my way through it. Other than that, the rest is not bad and I found the ending satisfying. I would recommend it if you don't have a book in mind that you're dying or waiting to read. Overall, it has its highs and lows.
mctn More than 1 year ago
I do respect the mentality of people from other countries as I, too, am an immigrant living in the USA. I just don't know why the author would want to focus on this issue, in this manner. The historical part was greatly researched, though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
honestly thought it was not that good. I kept TRYING to read it (I never not finish a book) and I coudln't. I'm Spanish and fluent in reading and writing and still found it too hard to doesn flow since you always have to be looking at the foot notes. And its just very boring in the middle. at first i thought that the flash backs/forwards would be cool, but it just made the book even more redundant. In conclusion I just gave up TRYING to read it because after 250 pages you shouldn't be trying anymore it should be a page turner by now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing writing style gets you entranced but by about midway one gets weary of the violence, sexism and language. Interesting historical footnotes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I try to read the 'top' selling books from many lists and I find myself scratching my head wondering "What did I miss?" It always brings me back to choices and individual tastes.....a painting, music, dance, movie or book. To each his/her own. I LISTENED to this on audio CD's, which to me makes many books come alive when there is a good reader. I enjoyed the word pronounciation (vs. my attempts to say them) but I did not enjoy this book. Drown was included in the audio pack and I got through that a little easier than Oscar Wao.
Me_OVM More than 1 year ago
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is a novel exploring the life and times of an overweight Dominican nerd. Our hapless protagonist, is cursed with virginity and low-self esteem; with the majority of the novel itself being narrated by Yunior, a stereotypical, womanizing Dominican, who serves as the authors mouthpiece into both Oscar's story, and into the stories of the people who came before him. Within the first 7 pages, Diaz sets up the general voice of the entire novel, from the sardonic darkness of the Dominican struggle, to the dry and hilarious footnotes which become reoccurring characters through out the book. Diaz introduces us to our two most important characters, Yunior, who serves as the (profane) voice of the novel, and Oscar, summarized as "a hardcore sci-fi and fantasy man" and an unfortunate recipient of the fuku. The fuku and its ying-yang counterpart: zafa, give our much needed magical realism injection into the novel, and become important in rationalizing the horrors of the Dominican Experience, an experience filled with terror and hope, subjugation and (attempted) freedom. The rest of the novel is a weaving of Oscar's story, his backstory, his unfortunate misadventures, his various attempts at life and death, and finally his climax and conclusion. Located within the moments of Oscar's sad, lonely life, we see glimpses of the experiences of the people around him, from his sister's attempts to break off from their controlling, abusive mother (uniquely told in her 1st person POV), his own mother's tragic youth in the Trujillato, Dominican Republic, his grandfather's downfall at the hands of similar forces, and a chapter from the POV of Yunior himself, as Oscar's roommate and (alleged) friend. Throughout the story, Diaz shows a mastery in controlling the tone and mood of his writing, being able to shift from hazy, dreamlike and almost goofy, to bone-crushingly brutal moments of pain and tragedy. His ability as a writer is shown best in Beli's (Oscar's mother) chapter, as her coming of age story is marred by the horrors of the regime she lives in; as her story shifts from a doomed love story, to one of victim, so brutalized by the nation she lives in, she flees to protect herself, a story all too common for the Dominican people. Diaz' style of writing is unique, as the book is written from the literary perspective of a New Jerseyan, Dominican swinger/playboy/no-good-cheater. This results in a wonderful blend of profanity, Spanish profanity, slang, innuendo and general urban speak; hilarious and appropriate given the narrative, providing a feeling of life to an otherwise grim and hopeless book. In many ways, the flowery language and dark comedy provide zafa (good luck) in a story filled with anything but. The epitome of Diaz' comedy is located within the sporadically placed footnotes, which provide cheeky information concerning items of importance within the novel, ranging from bitter, witty criticisms of Raphael Trujillo, to quotes from Lord of the Rings. These footnotes are the comedic context given to us by an author who is fully prepared to write out a full Dominican Shakespearean tragedy. Overall, the Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is an excellent book , commanding of the readers attention, that balances out a tragic plot, with excellent black comedy. With an eye-grabbing cast of characters and with fantastic writing to do them justice, this novel fully deserves the five stars it has received.
Annika12 More than 1 year ago
The novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” written by Junot Diaz, explores the violent history of the Dominican Republic and takes readers on a journey, discovering the stereotypes and violence existing in each character’s life. The title combines both Spanish and English influences. Woa, which is mispronunciation of the name Wilde, is a modification made from first language Spanish speakers to insult Oscar on his resemblance to “Oscar Wilde, a famous Irish writer.” (shmoop) Born in the Dominican Republic, Junot Diaz moved to a small community of Dominicans in the United States when he was 7 years old. He grew up with many of the experiences that are described in his character’s lives and incorporated the “Spanglish” language that he was raised speaking in this book. Junot was born a few years after the assassination of the ruthless dictator, Rafael Trujillo, who played an important role in the life of Oscar’s mother. “Running the country like it was a marine boot camp,” Trujillo, mentioned throughout the book as El Jefe, was a greatly feared, powerful dictator in which three generations of Oscar’s family’s lives revolved around.(3) A series of short stories voiced the lives of members of Oscar’s family though out the book so that the bigger picture was clear. What makes Oscar? Taking place in the ghettoes of New Jersey, the author started the wondrous life of Oscar. Living in a poor neighborhood populated by Dominicans, Oscar began his life as a pudgy, round boy, who was a ladies man. However, as he began to grow, his confidence suffered. Oscar was overwhelmed by his disappointing ability to defy stereotypes with his nerdiness, race, and social class. Not only did his outward appearance make it difficult to create friendships and relationships, but he spent his free time cooped up in his room with his unhealthy obsession with sci-fi, marvel comics, Japanimation, and a love of writing. “Bashful, precocious, and overweight,” Oscar’s only wish was to have a woman to love and to hold. (theguardian) The author uses diction to bring emotion into his book, making the reader feel the pain, fear, and happiness of each character. Switching the point of view of Oscar’s life connects the title to the audience, discovering the meaning of the title “brief.” Listening to the lives of those around Oscar connects violence to everyday life. With threats and fear inflicted in each character, the author does a great job of making each story unique and full of detail. He uses idioms and allusions to bring more life to his story. An allusion takes place in the last piece of writing Oscar ever wrote, “The beauty! The beauty!”(335) It is a connection to another famous piece of writing that expresses the horrors of life while after experiencing a woman for the first time, Oscar writes of the beauty. Although the whole book was about the suffering and hardships of the character’s lives, Oscar was able to sum it all up in a positive way. Even though life is difficult, the small intimacies make it worthwhile. However, with a complex structure and many phrases written in Spanglish, the book sometimes was difficult to follow. Some stories kept going long after the subject was explained. It was occasionally a puzzle to guess which character had the spotlight. The book included many phrases and words in Spanish and contained countless footnotes. Readers may also be put off by the numerous cussing and bad language contained in the book which sometimes made
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a fictional novel written by Junot Diaz. Diaz is a Dominican American author who is also a creative writing professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Although a majority of the book is set in New Jersey, the novel also explores the experience in the Dominican Republic (often referred to as the DR) under the rule of dictator Rafael Trujillo (also referred to as El Jefe). The novel is told from the multiple perspectives of Oscar, an overweight boy who is very interested in writing and falling in love, Lola, Oscar’s rebellious older sister, Beli, Oscar and Lola’s mother and Yunior, the narrator of the novel who ends up becoming a major part of both Oscar and Lola’s lives. Trujillo has quite a bit of power over the DR. He can do pretty much whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Some people came to the conclusion that he has “supernatural powers” (Diaz 3). It was believed that if you did something bad to Trujillo, he could wipe you out. That’s why when Abelard, a distant relative of Oscar, refused to allow Trujillo to see his daughter, it seemed like everyone Abelard was close to began to die. It is since then that Oscar’s family has been cursed by the fukú. There was also a counterspell known as the single word of zafa. These ideas throughout the novel are examples of magical realism and give hints at Dominican Culture. Oscar’s family believe that it is due to the fukú that he is an overweight nerd who lacks masculinity. All other Dominican families will also blame their bad luck on the fukú. The novel is written in a mix of Spanish and English. Diaz stated in an interview that he provided the Spanish without a translation in order to give the reader more of an immigrant experience but it does make the language complicated to understand at some parts. There are also a variety of science fiction movie and book references made in the novel that only a small amount of readers will understand enough to take something away from. Diaz uses very thoughtful diction in the novel throughout all chapters of the novel. Diaz skillfully uses a different kind of diction specific to each character. For example Oscar uses a more sophisticated vocabulary than Yunior who has been described as a bilingual b-boy (The New York Times). Characters like the gangster will also talk in a more aggressive tone with a large amount of curse words and violent references. Diaz’s ability to recognize these different perspectives proves his first hand experience in the DR. With its combined focus on the fukú and Oscar’s desperate attempts to find a girlfriend, there is never a dull moment in this book. Diaz finds a way to incorporate humor, sarcasm and suspense all into one moment. Above all else, this is an enjoyable book that is well worth the read. -Georgia McDonald