Saturday, July 25, 2009

Five best: novels about immigrants in America

Matthew Kaminski, a member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, named his five favorite novels about immigrants in America for his newspaper.

One title on the list:
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Diaz
Riverhead, 2007

The eponymous hero of Junot Diaz’s breakout novel is a fat, warm, complex, lonely, sex-starved, sci-fi-obsessed New Jersey kid who happens to be a Dominican. We’re in Philip Roth ­territory here. Wao’s angst is that of an adolescent (where does he, a ­Dominican “GhettoNerd,” fit in?) and of an immigrant (ditto). Diaz peppers his book with Spanish phrases and ­pop-dweeb trivia without explaining ­either, which in no way hurts the book. As for sections of the novel set back in the native land of Oscar’s mother, extended footnotes are provided “for those of you who missed your ­mandatory two seconds of Dominican history.” The novel is a rare ­accomplishment, a serious literary work with “street” appeal.
Read about another book on Kaminski's list.

Also see Junot Díaz's most important books and the Page 99 Test: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

--Marshal Zeringue