Sunday, September 11, 2016

Unabashed Sexism & Bilingualism {Dominican Republic}


4.5/5 Stars
Globetrotting Mom: Junot DIaz This is How you Lose Her, Exploring Dominican Replublic in Books

I don’t exactly know when my mind metamorphosed from “arrgh this is so sexist” to “man, this is brilliant”. Not that the graphic, vulgar, painfully point blank sexism went away. Just that the irritating bluntness slowly and steadily felt refreshing and real. The mind of this yet another regular prick is the mind of 90% of the male population on this planet we inhabit. And like we love the men in our lives, flaws and all, you feel for Yunior. Not that you want the women walked all over by him, his father, his brother (90% makes sense now?) to come back to them, but you did feel for him. 

But I want to keep the central theme of the book (infidelity, duh!) aside for a moment and write about bilingualism, something that was a norm all my life, yet was a first for me in literature. We anglophones think we’re cultured when we breeze through non-english words since they are usually followed by a comma and the English translation next to it, right there. 

But that comfort and convenience is taken away from you in this particular book. Blame it on my sheer laziness of learning anything beyond como estas & un cortado por favor, and blame it on Kindle’s limitation of showing you only the meaning of the highlight text, not translation (Is it that far though?), but going back and forth to google is not exactly fun. 

But for once, take off those pseudo cultured glasses and WORK FOR IT. Dive into the book and the minds of Dominican immigrants working in the Unites States. Without the Spanish words, the book wouldn’t be half as alive!

I loved what Junot Diaz (who also won a Pulitzer for his 2008 book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao that I’m currently reading, and what you should be reading if you really want to dive into the country’s historical background) had to say about it in a BookCourt Podcast: 

I grew up having no embarrassment about asking about shit that I didn’t know about. As a reader I’ve *always* bothered people. I’m the dude who’s like on a train and will look up and say “what the f*** does pelagic mean?” And see if anybody will answer! 

I always thought authors put hard words into books so that you would talk to other people. It was the psychic communal break built into every book, cuz if you never ask questions about a book, then you spent all the time in the book and never do anything to talk to people. 

I’ve heard arguments that I include Spanish in the book to make people feel like they’re immigrants, if you don’t know Spanish, now you know what I feel like! But I think my attacks on white supremacy and attacks on English narcissistic obsessive monolingualism are a little bit tougher than that. So I don’t need little literal ploys like that.

Anything that doesn’t make sense about a book a) reminds you that you’re in the real world, i.e 99% of the world doesn’t make sense b) it’s an invitation to you to talk to the f****g cute person that might know! 

But I suggest you don’t take that literally and blurt out “whats a pópola?” to a random cute person in a public place unless you want a smack on your face (if you're a guy) and who knows what if you're a woman!

No, seriously. 

Anyways, here’s an excerpt:

I love Santo Domingo. I Love coming home to the guys in blazers trying to push little cups of Brugal into my hands. Love the plane landing, everybody clapping when the wheels kiss the runway. Love the fact that I’m the only nigger on board without a Cuban link or a flapjack of makeup on my face. Love the redhead woman on her way to meet her daughter she hasn’t seen in eleven years. M’ija has tetas now, the woman whispers to her neighbour. 

If this was another kind of story, I’d tell you about the sea. What is looks like after it’s been forced into the sky through a blowhole. I’d tell you how many poor m****f*** there are. More albinos, more cross-eyed niggers, more tígueres than you’ll ever see. And I’d tell you about the traffic: The entire history of late-twentieth century automobiles swarming across every flat stretch of ground, a cosmology of battered cars, battered motorcycles, battered trucks and battered buses, and an equal number of repair shops, run by any fool with a wrench. 

But that would make it another kind of story and I’m having enough trouble with this one as it is. You’ll have to take my word for it. Santo Domingo is Santo Domingo. Let’s pretend we all know what goes on there. 

I highly recommend the book. And now let me get back to his other book. 

Globetrotting with Books: The Series & Link Up

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  1. Vulgar language makes me sad whether it's Spanish or English (or Elvish). There are just so many wonderful words for us to use, I've never understood the need to include the ones that get in the way of our message because of their offensiveness.

    1. That is true. Either you are comfortable with it or you're not. I've realised that I rather be comfortable with it than miss out on a lot of good literature! (movies, television shows too!)
      Thanks for stopping by Michele :)

  2. I love his take on books as a reason to start a conversation. I'm usually reluctant to start talking to people I don't know, but books do give me a way in!

    1. So true. Usually we read what we read and then move on to the next book without talking about what we read!

      Thanks for stopping by Kay :)

  3. I actually read The Brief wonderous Life of Oscar Wao in college and I enjoyed it. I haven't read this one yet but it definitely sounds interesting! Thanks for sharing this! #bigpinklink

    1. Hi Michelle, that's great! I feel Oscar Wao is a bit toned down (w.r.t bad language) compared to this is how you lose her! But I'm not even half way through.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Sounds like a really interesting read, going to have a look at some of his other works too. Thank you for sharing with #bigpinklink

  5. Thanks for sharing, sounds really interesting so will take a look! Thanks for linking up to #dreamteam

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