, , ,

Junot Diaz’s second collection of stories returns to the territory of his debut, Drown. This is How You Lose Her contains a wonderfully dynamic series of stories, most of them non-chronologically linked by the voice of Yunior, Diaz’s narrator. Yunior’s problem is a familiar one of diaspora fiction: how, following economic migration from ‘the Island’, The Dominican Republic, can his adolescent self re-adjust to life in New Jersey? But the means through which this tension is worked-through are anything but typical, Yunior’s voice made up of a slangy, rapid mixture of street American English peppered with heavy doses of Santo Domingo-flavoured Spanish. There’s lots of swearing, cheating and delinquency, but it doesn’t feel gratuitious or out to shock. ‘Entonces callate la fucking boca’,’In that case shut your fucking mouth’, gives a direct sense of linguistic life at street level that merely describing it never could. Indeed, it’s essential in negotiating the difficult relation between the Yunior who is a sucio, a dirty cheater like his brother and father, and a more sensitive self, a writer who likes hanging around in bookshops and is in some sense the creator of This is How You Lose Her, too. Perhaps sleeping with his Joyce profesora combines the two. To quote a passage demonstrating the sort of dynamic Spanglish that gives this book its extraordinary energy, the inappositely-named Pura, in ‘The Pura Principle’, is

‘Guapísima as hell: tall and indiecita, with huge feet and an incredibly soulful face, but unlike your average hood hottie Pura seemed not to know what to do with her fineness, was sincerely lost in all the pulchritude. A total campesina, from the way she held herself down to the way she talked, which was so demotic I couldn’t understand half of what she said – she used words like deguabinao and estribao on the regular.’

Dan Eltringham – Dan has reviewed This is How You Lose Her at greater length for Fiction Uncovered.