Junot Diaz• Born in the Dominican Republic – December 31 1968• Like many of his characters, had a strained relationship with his father• Books include• Drown• This is How You Lose Her• The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – won a Pulitzer Prize• Was awarded a Macarthur Fellowship• Teaches creative writing at MIT
YsrealCharacters• Yunior – Diaz has stated he modeled him after himself. Main character/narrator, 9 years old. Lives in the Dominican Republic.• Rafa – Yunior’s older brother, 12 years old, player constantly going after girls• Ysreal – A kid living in his uncle’s town who was attacked and disfigured by a pig when he was a child, wears a mask to hide his face. Rafa wants to unmask him and see his face, drags Yunior along to do it.
Summary• Rafa and Yunior are sent to live with their uncle like they are every summer. Rafa decides that he wants to see Ysreal unmasked and the brothers go on a trip to find him. They find him at a farm and talk to him for a while after walking to a store to get drinks. Rafa smashes his bottle over Ysreal’s head and takes his mask off to show his face.• Throughout the story there are flashbacks to other times when Yunior saw Ysreal, both times kids chased him and once Yunior hit him with a rock.
Discussion• Do you think that with his past of having a mostly fatherless childhood, was Diaz using this story and characters to show the importance of a father figure? Also based off what we learned in class and personal experiences, how important do you think a father figure is?• As touched on in Victor Vargas, if the father is absent do older brothers take over the role of the father? Then who becomes the father figure for the older brother? Will they just model themselves after the men around them?• Rafa was constantly making fun of Yunior and calling him a “pussy” if he was scared of doing something he knew he shouldn’t. Do you think Yunior only acted out to impress his brother and to impress the idea the boys had of their father? (a provider, a tough guy, living the American dream)• Why were the brothers so fascinated by Ysrael’s face? Did his deformed face make him inhuman, unmasculine?
Drown• Characters• Unnamed protagonist – Narrator of the story• Mother – narrator’s mom• Beto – only character named in the story, old friend of the narrator who he hasn’t talked to in 2 years, since he went to college after 2 homosexual encounters between them.
Summary• The narrator’s mother tells him that Beto is home and he sets out to find him, though unsure of whether or not he wants to speak to him. As he looks for Beto the narrator has flashbacks of his relationship with Beto. They used to be best friends and would go around causing trouble and stealing together until one day they had a sexual encounter that freaked the narrator out. He still hasn’t talked to him since Beto left for school and threw out the book Beto gave him without reading what he wrote.
Discussion• Why does the narrator avoid Beto? Do you think that he is ashamed of his sexuality and is trying to hide it? Is it because of social pressure like in Raising Victor Vargas?• The narrator seems to take care of his mother financially when his father is gone. Do you think he feels pressure to be the man of the house? Is that why he doesn’t want to join the army even though he knows it’s an escape?• The narrator is shocked by the sexual encounter with Beto the first time but allows it the 2nd time. He only shies away when he fears being caught – similar to his shoplifting habit, which he only stops doing when he’s caught. Do you think he doesn’t want to see Beto again when he comes back to town because he’s scared of another encounter?• Why did the narrator not want to read what Beto wrote in the book he gave him? Is he scared of developing feelings for Beto?