The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Monday, October 22, 2007


As I plan for a class on the immigrant experience in literature that I'm teaching in the fall, I'm forced to actually READ some of the novels and other books that I put down on my course proposal. First among these is Junot Diaz's DROWN, a story-cycle or episodic novel or story collection (it's one of those THINGS THEY CARRIED-type things) centering on the experiences of a young Dominican man living in the U.S. I've looked forward to Diaz's stories appearing in the NEW YORKER, when they (infrequently) do; his voice is vibrant and energetic and quite powerful, in addition to being just plain funny at times. DROWN is very much a first book; it's thin at times, and easy at times, and the prose seem so much more labored than does his most recent writing. That said, it's excellent: it's tight, it moves smartly as it goes from rural D.R. to the suburbs of New Jersey and Long Island, where the protagonist/narrator is employed delivering and assembling high-end pool tables. (This story is the highlight of the book for me.) In terms of "the immigrant experience," though, the only bit of the book that worked for me is the last story, "Negocios," a long piece about the experiences of the narrator's father, who emigrates from D.R. first to Miami and then to Washington Heights, where he takes another wife and slowly loses touch with his original wife and children (who remain on the island).

Reading DROWN reminded me in many places of Edwige Danticat's BREATH, EYES, MEMORY, which I read long ago, and I think I've got to look at it again. Another novel that deals with similar issues, if in much less harsh and underworldy light, is Julia Alvarez's HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS. I'm going to re-read those and see if they'll work.


  • At 6:18 AM, Blogger blublink said…

    how about the joy luck club, or even the kite runner in a way, in the second half... or white teeth, but that's in england...

  • At 8:59 PM, Blogger mantooth said…

    KITE RUNNER is already a go.... WHITE TEETH, although I love it, is too long. JOY LUCK CLUB is too lame.


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