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:
- Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
- The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru
- Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
- Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
- The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
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:
- Black Behind the Ears: Dominican Racial Identity from Museums to Beauty Shops by Ginetta E. B.Candelario (The characters in Diaz's book talk a lot about their identity as Domincians)
- Muddy Cup: A Dominican Family Comes of Age in a New America by Barbara Fischkin (read a true account of a DR immigrant family in NYC)
- The Last Playboy: The High Life of Porfirio Rubirosa by Shawn Levy (a real life person mentioned in the novel a few times)
- Something to Declare by Julia Alvarez (the Dominican Writer's memoir)
- The Dominican Republic: A National History by by Frank Moya Pons (the best reviewed and selling overall general history of the DR; but use this link for the entire bestseller list of DR nonfiction)