Book #1: This Is How You Lose Her

My favourite book of the year so far has been This Is How You Lose Her (TIHYLH) by Junot Diaz. It is a very short and quick read that left me wanting more! It is a collection of short stories about Yunior, a character from Diaz’s previous book ‘The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao’. A lot of people feel that this book is about heart-break and love but for me this was about a lot more. This is one of those books that is about everything and nothing. Yes, its about Yunior’s relationship with women and how he constantly sets himself up to fail in his love life and how he comes out of his post-heart break depression. Sure, there is one dimension to it that reads like the Dominican-American version of ‘Eat Pray Love’ without the fetishisation of distant ‘Eastern’ – in this case Southern? – lands. (Which apparently is called ‘re-orientalism’ or ‘self-orientalism’ to make things even more complicated[1])

TIHYLH is also about Yunior’s life in New Jersey, about his relationship with his mother and ailing brother. About growing up in a country that is familiar yet distant to you. On a more universal level it is also about how like a lot of us he finds it hard to connect with people, living outside your comfort zone and the big question of LIFE. Yunior is a flawed character, you don’t feel pity for him and I was slightly worried at points when I started identifying with him. TIHYLH resists the binary Rom-Com characterisations of good vs. evil. Instead, it felt like Diaz was trying to express what it was like to be truly human, flaws and all.

It is also unashamedly bilingual – which I loved!  If you want to find out what a ‘batshit cuero’ is, you’ll just have to Google it. Diaz won’t do the work for you. The way in which Spanish is weaved into the text does create a slightly dislocated feeling, one moment you’re in the story the next you’re not. In the spirit of ‘show not tell’ Diaz in a very subtle way gives us a window into hybrid identities of todays diaspora communities[2].

What it does lack though, is a ‘female perspective’. However, since it is a book written by a man about the trials and tribulations of being a borderline serial womaniser I think I’ll let that one go. All in all a great book that everybody should read!


[1] Lisa Lau has noted that the increasing visibility of ‘Third World’ authors is a double-edged sword; yes this increases representation but at the same time it reinforces stereotypes of the poor and culturally alien Other – flashback to the recent Cold Play fiasco. [Lau, Lisa. “Re-Orientalism: The Perpetration And Development Of Orientalism By Orientals”. Mod. Asian Stud. 43.02 (2007)]

[2] Homi Bhabha’s post colonial analysis of identities suggests the ‘hybrid’ identities that create a ‘third space’ outside of the home and host country binary are in themselves ways of challenging dominant discourses of ethnicity, race and narratives of who belong where. [Bhabha, H. (1994). The location of culture]

 

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