#1. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Díaz
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
After 11 years wandering in the wilderness, following the publication of his slender, cruelly promising story collection Drown, Díaz hauls off with massive, heaving, sparking tragicomedy starring Oscar, a dorky Dominican-American "social introvert who trembled with fear during gym class," and his mother and sister. Having escaped to New Jersey, they still suffer the manifold curses of the old country, still shiver in the chilly shadow of the departed Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. "He was our Sauron, our Arawn, our Darkseid, our Once and Future Dictator," Díaz writes, "a personaje so outlandish, so perverse, so dreadful that not even a sci-fi writer could have made his ass up." As Oscar and Lola grow up and go to college, they find themselves fighting the lingering dooms of the old country, the alien demands of New Jersey and the depredations of their romantic hearts crueller tyrants than even Trujillo himself. It's an unwinnable three-front war, and the outcome isn't a fantasy, it's brutal reality. "You know exactly what kind of world we live in," Díaz writes. "It ain't no f___ing Middle-earth."
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