Friday, November 09, 2012

Review: This is How You Lose Her

I hadn't read any Junot Diaz before this collection of linked short stories, but I am eager to read more, especially if Yunior is the narrator. Yunior's stories are heartfelt, poignant, gritty - he is sympathetic only because he is so far beyond sympathy. The best stories are when he admits his faults and he can't see a way out; or when he writes about his father & mother, coming to terms with a city and life that they know nothing about.

Diaz writes about the immigrant experience in a new way as well. As a Canadian, I've read many stories about the immigrant experience in Canada from all parts of the world. But Diaz adds more to this experience: in New York, the new citizens of the city don't so much create new lives but recreate their old ones in the new neighbourhood, as they are surrounded by others doing the exact same thing.

Diaz has also been acclaimed in two other ways: first, he was nominated for a National Book Award, which, by several accounts, is his to lose; secondly, he was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant for "talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction." The prize is a "no strings attached" cheque for $500,000; but he may find that it comes with a few strings: "The MacArthur grant is an unusually rich prize, giving each of its recipients $500,000 over the span of five years in order to further their work. As a grant, the money comes with no strings attached other, perhaps, than those of expectation and envy"

As far as I can tell, however, he deserves both; his voice is unique and necessary. If you haven't read Diaz before, This Is How You Lose Her is an excellent place to start.  

No comments: