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2015-2016 Common Book Selection

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) by Junot Díaz


“Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who—from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister—dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú—a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA. Encapsulating Dominican-American history, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao opens our eyes to an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and explores the endless human capacity to persevere—and risk it all—in the name of love.” –- Riverhead Books


Anisfield-Wolf Book Award – winner
Dayton Literary Peace Prize – winner
IMPAC Dublin Literary Award – winner
John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize – winner
Massachusetts Book Award for Best Fiction – winner
National Book Critics Circle Awards – winner
New York Times Notable Book – winner
Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) – winner
NAACP Image Award – finalist

About Junot Díaz

“Junot Díaz holds the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, a success he adds to an already long list of accolades that have been awarded to his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. A true literary triumph, this heartbreaking, at times hilarious, always dazzling story of the endless human capacity to persevere in the name of love confirms Díaz as one of the best and most exciting literary voices of our time …

Most recently, Díaz has released another short story collection titled This Is How You Lose Her, which has already received an incredible amount of praise and recognition from critics all over the world. In the collection, Díaz uses his talent to write about the haunting and impossible power of love. Díaz’s debut short story collection, Drown, was also a publishing sensation and is now a landmark of contemporary literature. His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Best American Short Stories.

Díaz was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. He now lives in New York City and Boston, where he teaches at MIT.” -– Penguin Random House

Visit the Outside Linkauthor’s website

NPR author interviews with Outside LinkJunot Diaz


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a wondrous, not-so-brief first novel that is so original it can only be described as Mario Vargas Llosa meets Star Trek meets David Foster Wallace meets Kanye West. It is funny, street-smart and keenly observed… An extraordinarily vibrant book that’s fueled by adrenaline-powered prose. … that decisively establishes Díaz as one of contemporary fiction’s most distinctive and irresistible new voices.” 

Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Díaz's besieged characters look to the supernatural for explanations and hope, from fukú, the curse unleashed when Europeans arrived on Hispaniola, to the forces dramatized in the works of science fiction and fantasy so beloved by the chubby ghetto nerd Oscar Wao, the brilliantly realized boy of conscience at the center of this whirlwind tale. Writing in a combustible mix of slang and lyricism, Díaz loops back and forth in time and place, generating sly and lascivious humor in counterpoint to tyranny and sorrow. And his characters—Oscar, the hopeless romantic; Lola, his no-nonsense sister; their heartbroken mother; and the irresistible homeboy narrator—cling to life with the magical strength of superheroes, yet how vibrantly human they are.”

— Donna Seaman, Booklist

“Astoundingly great…. You could call The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao the saga of an immigrant family, but that wouldn’t really be fair. It’s an immigrant-family saga for people who don’t read immigrant-family sagas.” 

— Lev Grossman, Time

“Genius...a story of the American experience that is giddily glorious and hauntingly horrific...That Díaz’s novel is also full of ideas, that [the narrator’s] brilliant talking rivals the monologues of Roth’s Zuckerman—in short, that what he has produced is a kick-ass (and truly, that is the just word for it) work of modern fiction—all make The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao something exceedingly rare: a book in which a new America can recognize itself, but so can everyone else.”

— Oscar Villalon, San Francisco Chronicle

“Terrific… Narrated in high-energy Spanglish, the book is packed with wide-ranging cultural references – to Dune, Julia Alvarez, The Sound of Music – as well as erudite and hilarious footnotes on Caribbean history. It is a joy to read, and every bit as exhilarating to reread."

Jennifer Reese, Entertainment Weekly


Please make sure to visit the RIC LibGuide for this year's book to view additional information and interactive content!

Outside LinkThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Outside LinkJunot Diaz​​

Page last updated: May 05, 2016