- Junot Diaz was born in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic
- Came to the United States in December 1974 and lived in Parlin, New Jersey
- He is a Professor of creative writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Became the First Latino to be appointed to the Pulitzer Prize board of Jurors
The fact that I am writing to you in English already falsifies what I wanted to tell you.
My subject: how to explain to you that I don’t belong to English though I belong nowhere else
Gustavo Perez Firmat
- Yunior- the whole book is from his perspective. In this story he is nine years old, still in the Dominican Republic
- Rafa- Yunior’s older brother
- Tio- When times get hard, Mami sends the boys to live with their uncle in el campo
- Absent father- Living and working in the US
- Ysrael- A boy whose face was eaten off by a pig when he was a baby
- Rafa and Yunior are in el campo with their uncle for the summer
- Rafa keeps talking about Ysrael. He is obsessed with getting a look at Ysrael’s face.
- Finally one day they take a bus to Ysrael’s neighborhood
- Rafa knocks him out and looks at his face
- Ysrael’s face = loss of identity
- Rafa is obsessed with getting a look
Yunior looks for validation from his older brother
- Always listens to Rafa’s stories
- Thrilled when Rafa brings him along
- Likes going to el campo because he and Rafa are friends there
- “Pato” on the bus
- Yunior tells the man to leave him alone
- When they get off the bus, he starts to cry
- Rafa calls him a pussy, tells him he needs to get tougher
Yunior is more sensitive than Rafa
- Acts like he wants to be Ysrael’s friend
- Doesn’t really want to look at his face
- When Tia told them that seeing Ysrael’s face would make you feel sad forever, Yunior didn’t want to feel sad forever.
- Tia Yrma – Yuniors Aunt, recently moved into the Bronx with Tio Miguel
- Puerto Rican Woman- having an affair with Yunior’s father, Rafa also knows about her
- Yunior’s Dad – Tough and abusive, is having an affair, always yelling at Yunior
- Tia Yrma and Tio Miguel move to the U.S. and are living in the Bronx off Grand Concourse
- Everybody decides to have a party for their arrival
- Yunior gets carsick a lot so his dad refuses to let him eat at the party.
- While at the party he thinks back on the time he met the Puerto Rican woman.
- He thinks about his mom and whether or not she knows
Masculinity and Sexuality
- Yunior gets his ideas of masculinity from His brother, father and Uncle
- Yunior hears from his uncle that if he were in the Dominican Republic he would be drinking already and would have even gotten laid already.
- Rafa makes Yunior stand guard at the party while his brother is with Leti
- His dad is having an affair with another woman and brings Yunior to her house while he goes upstairs with her
- Yunior is always getting yelled at and punished by his father, he even writes a school essay called My Father The Torturer
- Yunior- Living in the US
- Cut- Yunior’s friend and drug-dealing partner
- Aurora- A junkie that Yunior is involved with
- Yunior and his friend Cut go to pick up more drugs
- That night Aurora comes by their apartment
- Yunior spends the night with her, but when he wakes up he finds that she went through his pockets and left.
- Yunior and Cut go out and deal drugs
- Yunior and Aurora abuse each other, but they can’t seem to stay away from each other
- Yunior goes to hang out with his friends
- Hints that Aurora had a baby, but remains unclear
- Aurora went to juvie. Yunior didn’t write to her. They got back together when she got out.
“I’ve found these notes… Bullshit mostly but every now and then she leaves one that makes me want to treat her better” p. 48
“We all do shit like this, stuff that’s no good for you. You do it and then there’s no feeling positive about it afterwards” p. 50
“After, when she’s picking at my back and the others in the next room have started talking again, I’m amazed at how nasty I feel, how I want to put my fist in her face” p. 55
“We’re all under the big streetlamps, everyone’s the color of day-old piss. When I’m fifty this is how I’ll remember my friends: tired and yellow and drunk” p. 57
“If something inside of me is saying no, why do I say, Yeah, sure?” p. 59
“I’m thinking how easy it would be for her to turn around and say, Hey, let’s go home. I’d put my arm around her and I wouldn’t let her go for like fifty years, maybe not ever. I know people who just quit like that, who wake up one day with bad breath and say, No more. I’ve had enough” p.61
“A week from then she would be asking me again, begging actually, telling me all the good things we’d do and after a while I hit her and made the blood come out of her ear like a worm but right then, in that apartment, we seemed like we were normal folks. Like maybe everything was fine” p. 65
- Yunior – only nine years old
- Abuelo – Lives in the house helps take care of the kids
- Rafa – older brother
- Tía Miranda –Yunior’s Madrina (Godmother. He only stays with her when times get harder and his mom doesn’t have any more money
- Yunior talks about the times he grew up in DR with out his father present and how poor they were.
- Mom worked ten 12-hour shifts to support them.
- Abuelo helped take care of them but didn’t actually work for money.
- They lived in a small house with a leaky roof and the only thing that was kept safe was the pictures of his dad in a plastic bag.
- Yunior had never met his father before.
- His father usually writes letters to the family and recently wrote to tell them he was coming back. This gets his mom in such a bad mood because his father said that once before and never showed up.
- He describes how she changed following that and went away for 5 weeks
- When she came back she was a new person brighter and happier
- He only knows of his father by the things his mother tells him such as how they met.
- This is basically about Yunior wanting to know his father and how his absence effects them.
- He see how much his mother is hurt by it but still wants to know his father. He even throws a tantrum until his mother can’t take it anymore.
- Yunior- Living in the US with only his mother now
- Mother- Quiet and lost, misses Yunior’s father
- Beto- Yunior’s old friend
- Alex and Danny- The guys Yunior drinks with at night
- Recruiter- Tries to recruit Yunior for the Army
- Father- Only present in flash-backs and when Yunior’s mother talks to him on the phone. Lives in Florida now with another woman
- Mother tells Yunior that Beto is back and wants to see him
- Beto left for college and Yunior stayed behind
- Yunior goes to the pool in the middle of the night, half-expecting to see Beto there
- Mother doesn’t understand why Yunior and Beto don’t hang out anymore
- Yunior takes his mother to the mall. It’s one of the only times she leaves the apartment
- Yunior and Beto used to shoplift together
- Army recruiter once tried to recruit Yunior
- Yunior skipped out of school a lot
- Beto and Yunior had two homosexual encounters
“The water feels good. Starting at the deep end I glide over the slick-tiled bottom without kicking up a spume or making a splash. Sometimes another swimmer churns past me, more a disturbance of water than a body. I can still go far without coming up. While everything above is loud and bright, everything below is whispers” p. 93
“I take to the bushes when I see his car on the road. These days my guts feel loose and cold and I want to be away from here. He won’t have to show me his Desert Eagle or flash the photos of the skinny Filipino girls sucking dick. He’ll only have to smile and name the places and I’ll listen” p. 101
“Sometimes Alex will stop by the side of the road and say, Excuse me. When somebody comes over from the bar he’ll point his plastic pistol at them, just to see if they’ll run or shit their pants. Tonight he just puts his head out the window. Fuck you! he shouts and then settles back in his seat, laughing” p. 103 masculinity, homophobia
“We sat in front of his television, in our towels, his hands bracing against my abdomen and thighs. I’ll stop if you want, he said and I didn’t respond. After I was done, he laid his head in my lap. I wasn’t asleep or awake, but caught somewhere in between, rocked slowly back and forth by the way surf holds junk against the shore, rolling it over and over” p. 105
“I thought of how in high school our teachers loved to crowd us into their lounge every time a space shuttle took off from Florida. One teacher, whose family had two grammar schools named after it, compared us to the shuttles. A few of you are going to make it. Those are the orbiters. But the majority of you are just going to burn out. Going nowhere. He dropped his hand onto the desk. I could already see myself losing altitude, fading, the earth spread out beneath me, hard and bright” p. 106
- The book jumps around from one period to another within Yunior’s life
- Things are often undefined; some stories barely even have a plot