- The room was PACKED with people there to hear Diaz - he was a huge draw for the CityLit Festival. There was even a high school teacher who brought his Freshman students.
- Diaz read from a short story called The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars. His voice is very monotone and his enunciation is unique. Some of us enjoyed the way he spoke and others couldn't stand it.
- He speaks exactly the way he writes - English, Spanish, and bad language all mixed together. However, he did clean up his language during the Q&A session ... leading Melissa to wonder if the slang is more of a persona he puts on. We discussed that quite a bit over lunch.
- We talked for about an hour over lunch. Topics included the use of sci-fi/fantasy allusions, writing about a culture you are familiar with, the use of street slang, the character of Beli, the treatment and imagery of women, and the meaning of the book's title.
- The four of us who were able to attend agreed that this was a unique and fun change to our normal book club meetings. We'd definitely like to do it again! And it didn't hurt that the weather was GORGEOUS on Saturday ...
A few people gave explanations for their ratings or shared comments about the book:
- Kelli said: I give this story a 6. I liked his sci-fi weavings and historical footnotes, but the random Spanish and pervasive profanity was a challenge for me.
- Nancy said: I am enjoying the audio version.... I do not feel I would have stuck with the book had it not been for the cds. The different voices and accents makes it more interesting.
- Jennifer said: I didn't finish enough but so far - I'm down the middle with a 5. I find some of the wording tough because you have to stop and read footnotes. However, I often feel differently after I've read a substantial amount of the book and begin to really get into the characters. So my rating might be different if I had read more.
- Cyndi said: I have to say, even though I started out liking it, the Spanish got to me after awhile. I think if I knew Spanish then I would have appreciated it, but that and the footnotes were too much. I would give it a 5.
- And I said: Before hearing Diaz speak, I'd have given this a 6. Even though I LOVED the sci-fi stuff and the historical stuff - especially the footnotes - the language really bugged me. But after hearing Diaz, I wanted to give it a 7. So I compromised and gave it a 6.5. (You can read my complete review of the book at my blog - I explain in more detail what I thought about it.)
To learn more about Junot Diaz and this book, check out the following links:
- Slate.com interview with Diaz - "Oscar was the end point (for me) of a larger, almost invisible historical movement—he's the child of a dictatorship and of the apocalypse that is the New World. I was also trying to show how Oscar is utterly unaware of this history and yet also dominated by it. " ~~~ "Yunior's telling of this story and his unspoken motivations for it are at the heart of the novel and can easily be missed." ~~~ "Just remember: In dictatorships, only one person is really allowed to speak. And when I write a book or a story, I too am the only one speaking, no matter how I hide behind my characters."
- Penguin Books interviews Diaz - "Beli as a character turned into a tribute to an entire generation of women I grew up with (my mother, her sisters, my friends) who had come to the United States and given their lives to build our community, to make people like me possible. Beli, in a way, was the key that opened all the other women in the book: her daughter, Lola; her adopted mother, La Inca; her real mother, Socorro. I found that I couldn't write just about Beli, I had to circumscribe her entire female world. So here's my confession: Beli and her story made me do it" ~~~ "In my youth the only people who really seemed to be interested in exploring dictatorlike figures were the fantasy and science fiction writers, the comic-book artists. You didn't see much about that aspect of the world in the mainstream culture, so as a kid who was the child of a dictatorship I had to find analogs in the genres...."