Did you know that "an estimated 5 million Americans now

actively participate in book clubs

through out the country"?

Well, they do, as reported in THE WEEK (April  4, 2014).


MARCH 21, 2014


Cell: 323-533-3550

The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz

Discussion Leader: Ginger Semple-Schneider

Wondrous:  Merriam-Webster: causing wonder or amazement: very beautiful or impressive (Merriam-Webster)

Roget’s Thesaurus: amazing, astounding, fascinating, miraculous, astonishing, extraordinary, marvelous, striking, wonderful

Junot Diaz was born in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1968.  At the time, his father lived and worked in New Jersey.  Diaz joined his father at age six, growing up poor and fearing for his safety as an immigrant in a rough neighborhood.  In elementary school, he was a voracious reader, becoming fascinated with apocalyptic films and books, particularly the Planet of the Apes films as well as comic books.  Currently, Diaz teaches creative writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is fiction editor at Boston Review.  The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is an historical novel that takes place during the term of the dictator Trujillo.

Discussion of the book began months before the March 21 meeting, mostly unhappiness with the difficult style of “Oscar” due to the many references to historical events and people, plus street language including a great deal of Spanish.  Indeed, a blogger created lengthy annotations of the book.

Ginger’s leadership of the discussion drew wondrous commentary on this 2008-Pulitzer-prize-winning book.  I share with you some of Ginger’s questions to direct your thinking, but leave the answers up to you.  What did you like or dislike? Why is Junior the narrator? Do you see the Fantastic Four of comic books here?  Did you like the style? What motivated you to continue the book? Why did he win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction? Who wrote the footnotes? Explain the title; how is Oscar’s life wondrous? Why are there so many references to comic books and science fiction?  Where is the symbolism?  Is Oscar Wao a Dominican’s accent for Oscar Wilde?  Why does Diaz compare a writer to a dictator?  One final question: What do you think was in the 2nd package, never received by his family, that Oscar sent right before his death?

Readers were divided over liking and disliking the book.  Some understood more on the second reading; others said it was better received on audio.  Some suggested just letting the book wash over the reader.  It isn’t necessary to understand all the references or the language; savor the richness of a different culture.  One reader opined that the author intended to irritate us.  Some didn’t read it; others were offended by the language. 

In the end, we cannot deny that Junot Diaz is a brilliant writer who wrote an unapologetic, complex novel, rich with symbolism, pathos and pain under the tyrant Trujillo, whose characters suffered from the Fuku, a curse ingrained into the Dominican Republican psyche.  Readers recognized that the author’s style is contemporary, cutting edge and may not please more “traditional” readers.  Thank you, Ginger, for leading us through this provocative, unforgettable read and for the madeleines…dipped in chocolate!

Join us next month, April 18, at 2 PM, for a discussion of The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Minimum Wage, by Kirstin Downey.  Discussion leader: Ann Kepcke.


Book Club Schedule 2013-2014


September 20, 2013

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Book Discussion Leader:  Irene Tritel






October 18, 2013

Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Book Discussion Leader:  Richard Bass






November 15, 2013

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Book Discussion Leader:  Mary Barlow






December 20, 2013

Gonzalez & Daughter Trucking Co: A Road Novel With Literary License by Maria Amparo Escondon

Book Discussion Leader:  Peggy Meyer






January 17, 2014

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

Book Discussion Leader:  Sandy Clark






February 21, 2014

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

Book Discussion Leader:  Irene Tritel






March 21, 2014

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Book Discussion Leader:  Moira Johannesen

Join us at 1 p.m. to nominate books for next season. The only "rule" is that you have to have read the book.






April 18, 2014

The Woman Behind The New Deal: The Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance and the Minimum Wage by Kirstin Downey

Book Discussion Leader:  Ann Kepcke





May 16, 2014

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Book Discussion Leader:  Derry Levy






June 20, 2014

House of Earth by Woodie Guthrie

Book Discussion Leader:  Ginger Semple-Schneider



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