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DROWN by Junot Díaz



by Junot Díaz

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1996
ISBN: 1-57322-041-8
Publisher: Riverhead

 D°az's first collection of ten stories, some having appeared in the New Yorker and Story, is certain to draw attention for its gritty view of life in the barrios of the Dominican Republic and rough neighborhoods of urban New Jersey. Most of the stories are linked by their narrator, who spent his first nine years in the D.R., until his father in the States brought the entire family to South Jersey, where he continued to display the survivalist machismo he developed during years of poverty, scamming, and struggle. In the Caribbean pieces, D°az offers a boy's-eye view of a hardscrabble life. In ``Ysrael,'' the narrator and his brother, sent to the countryside during the summer, plot to unmask a local oddity, a boy whose face was eaten off by a pig in his youth. Much later in the volume, ``No Face'' reappears, surviving the taunts of the locals as he waits for his trip to America, where surgeons will work on his face. ``Arguantando'' documents life in the barrio, where the narrator, his brother, and his mother eke out an existence while hearing nothing from the father. ``Negocios'' explains why: Robbed of his savings in the US, the father schemes to marry a citizen in order to become one himself, all the time thinking of his family back home. He is hardly a saint, and, reunited in New Jersey, the family is dominated by his violent temper. ``Fiesta, 1980'' recalls the narrator's bouts of car sickness, for which his father shows no sympathy. In the remaining tales, a teenaged Dominican drug dealer in New Jersey dreams of a normal life with his crackhead girlfriend (``Aurora''); a high-school dealer is disturbed by his best friend's homosexuality (``Drown''); and ``How to Date . . .'' is a fractured handbook on the subtleties of interracial dating. D°az's spare style and narrative poise make for some disturbing fiction, full of casual violence and indifferent morality. A debut calculated to raise some eyebrows.