A recent BBC Culture Critics’ poll declared Junot Diaz’ The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao the best book of the 21st century. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: How can we have a best book of the 21st century already? It’s only 2015, Guys, the 21st century has only just begun! You’re right – it might be a bit premature to start announcing the top twelve books of this century when we’re not even twenty years into the game. After all, over here at Latin é, we’re expecting even more great literature to appear over the next 85 years.
But, despite the absurdity of their declaration, we have to admit that we are more than a little in love with Junot Diaz and his work. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a story about an awesome ghetto-nerd, named Oscar, who spends his days living in New Jersey dreaming about one day being the “Dominican-American Tolkien” and finding true love. It doesn’t get much nobler than that, does it?
Oscar Wao has plenty of claims to fame. It was only the second book by a Latino author to receive The Pulitzer Prize in fiction (the first being The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by hispanic-author, Oscar Hijueles, way back in 1989). According to noted critic and author, Rigoberto Gonzalez:
Oscar Wao reaffirmed the strong connections Latinos maintain with their ancestral homeland’s culture, language and history. It also re-energised these questions: Who is American? What is the American experience?
One of the great things about Junot Diaz’ first novel is that it really shines a light on the history of the Dominican Republic, a topic that not a lot of Americans know much about. The irreverent tone of the narration makes it easier to pay attention during the many history lessons Diaz presents within the story, while also providing readers with the perfect dose of healthy ignorance-shaming…
“The pejorative parigüayo, Watchers agree, is a corruption of the English neologism ‘party watcher.’ The word came into common usage during the First American Occupation of the DR, which ran from 1916 to 1924. (You didn’t know we were occupied twice in the twentieth century? Don’t worry, when you have kids they won’t know the U.S. occupied Iraq either.)”
We know it’s too early to be declaring the best novels of the 21st century, but we have to say that when the actual “Best Books of the 21st Century” list goes live in the year 2100, we believe that The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao will still be deserving of a coveted spot.
Don’t believe us?
The story speaks for itself.
Read it and weep…