Reading Drown has completed my trifecta of all of Junot Diaz’s published books. His Dominican perspective, flawed characters and descriptive images written in short strokes of the pen are as prevalent in Drown, his 1st published book as his other two. But in Drown, I found myself consistently asking, how much of these stories are based on Diaz’s personal experience?
Drown has 10 short stories in this collection. My favorite was “Negocios.” It was about the protagonist Junior’s father Ramon coming as a new immigrant to the United States. Beyond the language barrier and culture struggle, one could expect the reader witnesses what happens to a flawed man who abandons his wife (whose father gave Ramon the money to buy a ticket to the United States) and kids in the Dominican Republic. Instead of Ramon establishing himself then bringing his family over to the states he starts a new life marrying another woman and having additional children. My least favorite short story was “How to date a Brown girl, Black girl, white girl, or Halfie.” This one felt unfinished and didn’t quite deliver from the buildup of Junior preparing for a date that never happened when it finally occurred. “Ysrael” lands somewhere in the muddy middle of taste. The reader is engulfed in the relationship between Junior and his big brother, Rafa. But the story pivots from Junior’s admiration of his brother sway over girls once they team up to jump and unmask Ysrael, a Dominican kid around their age whose face was eaten by a pig.
The Drown short stories are well done. I found myself laughing at moments and then taken aback by other scenes. In the book’s titled chapter “Drown” Junior described the two times his best-friend-drug-selling-partner had molested him. An eerie occurrence that left Junior frozen and me shaking my head.
But without a doubt the language in Drown is Dominican. I’m reminded of childhood Dominican friends I grew up around who would naturally switch between English and Spanish. His writing has encouraged me to just go for it when describing situations as natural as I would chat with friends. I don’t think one would be disappointed if time is taken to read Drown.
Rashaun J. Allen (@rashaunjallen) received his MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from SUNY Stony Brook. He’s eyeing agents to help publish his coming of age story, Christine’s Dream – A Memoir of Love, Loss & Life. He is the author of A Walk Through Brooklyn & In The Moment and has been published in TSR: The South Hampton Review, Rigorous, Tishman Review and is forthcoming in Fourth GenreT. When not writing he runs for the thrill of crossing the finish line. Find more of his work at www.rashaunjallen.com.
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