Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

2008 Pulitzer Prize For Fiction Winner

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz


Publisher: Faber & Faber

Length: 335 Pages

About: Overweight nerd falls in love

Style: 1st & 3rd person

Where: US & Dominican Republic

When: 1944-2000



Publisher’s synopsis:

Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ-the curse that has haunted the Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim. D’az immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss.




Our hero was not one of those Dominican cats everybody’s always going on about – he wasn’t no home-run hitter or a fly bachatero, not a playboy with a million hots on his jock.   And except for one period early in his life, dude never had much luck with females (how very un-Dominican of him).




Funny, street-smart and keenly observed.... An extraordinarily vibrant book that's fueled by adrenaline-powered prose.... A book that decisively establishes [D’az] as one of contemporary fiction's most distinctive and irresistible new voices. 

Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times



Not so good:

The incongruity between Oscar’s circumstances and his background — a disjunction Díaz solves violently and unconvincingly in the book’s final section — is the real subject of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” This is, almost in spite of itself, a novel of assimilation, a fractured chronicle of the ambivalent, inexorable movement of the children of immigrants toward the American middle class, where the terrible, incredible stories of what parents and grandparents endured in the old country have become a genre in their own right. 

The New York Times By A. O. SCOTT September 30, 2007


About the author

Junot Diaz was born in the Dominican Republic and received his Master of Fine Arts Degree from Cornell University. Drown, his collection of short stories, was described as 'a dazzlingly talented first book' by the Independent on Sunday. He teaches Creative Writing at MIT (Massachussetts Institute of Technology).


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Novels by same author:

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2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

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