Since the publication of his first collection of short stories, Drown, Dominican-born author has been acclaimed by critics as one of the most original, vibrant and engrossing voices to come along in many years. Chosen by Newsweek as one of their new faces of 96- A Deserving Dark Horse - the young writer quickly became the most highly trumpeted talent of the season. Junot Diaz's short stories--quick, skinned, craftily alive--are as representative of the 1990s as long poems were representative of the 1790s. Cool and grimy, they tell us about contemporary urban America, reflecting, like puddles, whatever is tramping the sidewalk. But Diaz's book also tells us much about contemporary literature, acting like a glass hull through which one can see the narrow currents of American writing today. Diaz uses this letter-like communication with real skill. His narrators speak a non-literary vernacular, compounded of African American slang, loosened Spanish and standard American short storytelling.
After making a huge mainstream literary splash in magazines such as the New Yorker, Story, and the Paris Review, writer Junot Diaz is quickly being discovered by Hispanic audiences now that ten of his best short stories have been published in a collection titled Drown, the title of one of the best stories in the book. The fact that Diaz was discovered first by affluent Anglo audiences and then by middle-class Latino audiences is significant because, unlike most Hispanic authors, Diaz does not need to worry about attaining cross-over appeal. It has long been established. Magazines like the New Yorker and the Paris Review recognized that Diaz's gutsy, raunchy, and engrossing tales of working-class Dominican American men and women were not "interesting" (a patronizing word Anglos use for non-white writing) but universal.
The soul of Diaz's stories is that he shows that the lives, hardships, and humor of Dominican Americans, while culturally distinct, are fundamentally no different than anybody else's. Diaz does this without falling into the trappings of depicting Hispanic lives as wrought with drugs, violence, casual sex, and broken English. Instead he depicts the life of a Dominican not unlike himself: someone who was raised in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, lives in the U.S., and is struggling to make sense of what all that means.
As Diaz takes us through the experiences of Dominican Americans, he is taking us through the experiences of any American as well. In his first story "Ysrael," which depicts a boy and his brother spending the summer with his Tio Miguel who lives in the campo in Santo Domingo, the everyday experiences of play, sex, and boredom found in country living are fundamentally no different than anything happening to a white kid in the sticks of Ohio. The same can be said for "Fiesta, 1980" and "Negocios" which beautifully show how family relationships play themselves out; with "Aguantando," which shows the dynamics of the estrangement between parent and child; with "Aurora" and "Boyfriend," which show the awkwardness of emotional awakening in relationships; and with "No Face" and "Edison, New Jersey," which discuss everyday ...