book cover

  September 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Díaz

[ Barnes and Noble Book Summary ]


(From Barnes &

Ten years after his acclaimed short story collection Drowned, Junot Diaz returns with a lollapalooza of a debut novel centered on a grotesquely overweight Dominican-American teenager named Oscar. Lonely, loveless, and living almost completely inside his own head, Oscar is a "ghetto nerd" whose multiple obsessions include comic books, fantasy fiction, and supremely unobtainable women. In a story that moves back and forth between the Dominican Republic and Paterson, New Jersey, Diaz illuminates the tragic arc of Dominican history (especially under the brutal Trujillo regime) in the lives of Oscar's sister, mother, grandmother, and aunt. Shot through with witty cultural footnotes, scabrous slang, and touches of magic realism, this heartbreaking family saga is a work of brave originality.

About the Author

(From Barnes &

Dominican-American writer Junot Díaz has spun the heartbreak and loneliness of the immigrant experience into literary gold with memorable stories of marginalized outsiders caught between two cultures, never completely fitting into either one.

Born in Santo Domingo, Díaz was raised by his mother for the first six years of his life. Then, in 1974, the family traveled to the U.S. to join his father who was working in New Jersey. Tragedy struck in the mid-1980s when, in swift succession, his father abandoned his mother, his brother was diagnosed with leukemia, and the family was plunged into abject poverty. Young Díaz retreated into books, developing a voracious reading habit and a particular fascination with comic books and the apocalyptic sci-fi novels of John Christopher.

Díaz worked his way through Rutgers University, graduating in 1992 with a degree in English. After college, he went to work for Rutgers University Press but quit to attend graduate school at Cornell. During this time he wrote furiously, composing many of the stories that would appear in The New Yorker, Story magazine, various "best of" anthologies, and, finally, in his acclaimed 1996 debut collection, Drown.

More than a decade later, Díaz made waves with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a strikingly original first novel filled with sly cultural footnotes, scabrous slang, and touches of magic realism, and featuring one of the most unforgettable characters in contemporary literature -- a morbidly obese Dominican-American "ghetto nerd" from Paterson, New Jersey. The novel was selected by Time and New York Magazine as the best book of 2007.