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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Readalikes for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoLater today, I will be hosting a book discussion of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The discussion is part of the work I do for the Adult Reading Round Table.  This quarterly book discussion is a chance for librarians to participate in a discussion rather than only leading them.  We will discuss the book and discuss the discussion. It is a chance for librarians to exchange information about what is working and not working in their groups.

I chose the Diaz book for 2 reasons. The first is that is won the Pulitzer Prize and I knew that the discussion would be right around the time this year's winner would be announced. Also the ARRT membership asked for us to offer "multicultural" titles this year, and this novel with its NJ and Dominican Republic settings and its liberal use of spanglish, fit the bill.  And on a selfish note, I wanted an excuse to read it again.

I will have a short report on what we discussed later this week, but today I wanted to focus on the readalike suggestions.  Since The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is such a unique book, there are a lot of places you can go for readalikes.

In an excellent book discussion guide for the novel, NoveList contributor Michael Jenkins suggests the following titles for further reading:
The full article with reasons why these are great matches, as well as detailed questions and answers, is available on NoveList. Berwyn card holders can click here for immediate access. My editor over at NoveList, Katherine, wanted to especially mention Faulkner. She felt Diaz's work had an overwhelming Faulknerian quality that, if you don't mind reading Faulkner, is worth a try.

In the past, I have suggested this:
First, even though the novel makes fun of it, In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, would be a great read for those wanting to know more about the reign of Trujillo and the Dominican diaspora. But really the book most like Diaz's novel is Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude. It has the same coming-of-age themes, a New York area setting, multicultural issues, and artists. The writing is also similarly non-traditional, yet accessible. Of course, I would also be remiss if I did not mention the numerous references to The Lord of the Rings Trilogy throughout Oscar Wao.
To these suggestions I would also add, Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser. Like Oscar's story, this is a fictional memoir of a writer who died young, told by an acquaintance. Millhauser uses magical realism throughout all of his work just like Diaz. Also The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargos Llosa is mention in BWLoOW and is a great fictional account of Trujillo's regime.

Oscar himself would have loved io9, the online guide to everything a speculative genre loving nerd could dream of.

After reading this book, many people are interested in learning more about the history of the Dominican Republic in relation to Diaz' book. For those readers, I would suggest the following nonfiction:
Look for my report on what we discussed in a few days.

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